Author Archives: jwc

13 October 2012 – Seminar


 ‘Celebrating the Reach of Co-operatives (in space and time!)’

Saturday 13th October 2012, 2- 4.30 pm.

3rd R-CoMuse Seminar
‘Celebrating the Reach of Co-operatives (in space and time!)’


Saturday 13th October 2012, 2- 4.30 pm.
(Preceded by business meeting 11-12, with lunch at 1)
Venue: Birkbeck College, London.

Ian Snaith: UK Co-operative Law: Recent Developments
Rita Rhodes: Methodology and Publication of ‘Empire and Co-operation’


For more details please see R-CoMuse blog, and for registration contact: Nathan Moore ( or Caroline Archer (


R-CoMuse: Research Network in Co-operatives, Mutuals and Social Enterprises.

An interdisciplinary and international research network
good for everyone….



2012 International Year of Co-operatives

A Focus on Co-operatives and Questions: Of ‘Value’ and ‘Values’

Saturday, 12th May 2012 (10.45- 4.30)
Law School, Birkbeck College, London.

R-CoMuse – Research into Co-operatives, Mutuals and Social Enterprises

An interdisciplinary and international research network.
                                                                                    …good for everyone….

2012 is designated as the UN ‘Year of Co-operatives’. In the country which gave birth to ‘the co-operative movement’, there is no better time to reflect upon the factors which lay behind a renewal of interest in co-operatives and related forms of social enterprise: especially when we reflect upon the fact that co-operatives, so long associated with the Labour movement, have become adopted as part of the ‘Big Society’ agenda. What is it about them which appeals across a broad political spectrum, from being promoted as radical alternatives through to being applauded by the Coalition?
Co-operative enterprises cover a wide range of activities – from business through to housing and the delivery of services. The basic premise which connects all of these together is that a group of people come together to act in their common interest for their mutual benefit. This, however, translates into a wide range of forms and practices, within which ‘common interest’ and ‘mutual benefit’ become contested terms. For ‘the co-operative movement’ the hallmark of a co-op is that it meets, in its form and practices, the ‘Rochdale Principles’. How do these principles inform both the range of activities which are associated with co-operative enterprises, and the legal forms which have been developed (or been adopted) to carry them? And, to what extent do these forms, patterns, and practices, reflect and enhance (or inhibit) the values of co-operation? Especially, when, as was recognized by the Rochdale Pioneers, any co-operative enterprise must be economically sustainable, as well as continue to be attractive to its membership. In an environment which has, for so long, been premised upon the values of individualism, private property, and a capitalist model of investment, credit and growth, the potential in co-operative enterprise is now being re-addressed. From offering alternative, sustainable, business models, and positing different patterns of ‘ownership’, through to concerns with developing enterprises which re-engage people into more pro-active and responsible communities: what is this investment in co-operation which now seems to make it so attractive?
These questions are premised on an argument that co-operatives are not simple models – but assemblages of practices and forms, of principles and ideas. We need to develop methodological approaches which enable us to investigate co-operatives as multi-faceted entities, diagramming the operational techniques which translate the principles of co-operation into organizational forms. In this seminar we approach this thematically – taking as our entry point ‘value’ (as assets) and ‘values’ (as principles). How are these brought into relation through co-operative forms? How have tensions between them been addressed, particularly in the development of legal models? How have narratives been developed to promote and disseminate co-operative principles and values? Included in this workshop is a viewing of the 1944 short film ‘Men of Rochdale’ – an evocation of history which is being reprised in a new film commissioned by The Co-operative, and due out later this year. 1844/1944/2012 – what are co-operatives about? How do the thematic questions of value help us to investigate them?

For details contact: Nathan Moore (


Distributing Time and Space


R- CoMuse
Kent Law School


Monday, 7th Nov. 2011. 10.30am, 11.15am-to 5.00pm.

The deployment of co-operatives and mutuals raises questions concerning how we develop methodologies for investigating these socio-economic forms and their legal framings. This challenges the orthodoxies of how we think of property, ownership and benefit, and of the role of law and legal forms. How do we track, and give an account, of these challenges? What issues does this raise for re-engaging with methodologies developed for investigation into other, more conventional, sites?

Co-operatives and mutuals are dependent upon particular accounts of time and space – to understand the ramifications of this is one of the challenges they present, and it throws into relief the question of just how space and time are constructed, deployed, and understood, within law and in other fields of scholarship. Taking this as an entry point, this inter-disciplinary seminar (anthropology, film, geography, law, architecture) addresses ways to think (image, diagram) how spatialities and temporalities are distributed.

There are three ‘back stories’ to this seminar, all of which have informed both how we have set up the day, as well as what we hope will be developed during our meeting together. First, and most obviously, in 2011 the British Academy awarded us a small grant to investigate the development of methodologies for the study of mutuals and co-operatives and similar ‘non-orthodox legal sites’. This seminar is funded from that grant. In these terms, we structured the seminar as an opportunity to introduce strategies and themes from across a range of disciplines which might inform the development of work in this area (or in these ‘sites’) as part of the newly formed R-CoMuSE network of scholars and activists. Second, we argued in our application that socio-legal and jurisprudential scholarship would benefit from being both more informed by work developing in other disciplines, and from using ‘ non-orthodox’ legal sites as a means through which to re-examine some basic presumptions made about law, and legal methods which might have become too entrenched (too ‘presumed’) in much existent legal scholarship. Third, it seems to us that legal scholars have too often approached other disciplines looking for ‘tools’ or ‘methods’ which might be usefully brought back ‘into’ our work, rather than thinking more succinctly about how our own methodologies might be useful to other disciplines – in other words, how we might develop more successful inter- and cross- disciplinary work.
Bringing together these three aspects, a clear theme emerged for this seminar concerned with the extent to which any study of co-ops and mutuals is reliant upon a particular inter-play between space and time. Lawyers are familiar with the construction of spatial and temporal dimensions through the foundational legal forms of contracts and property – in encountering sites which do not conform to the orthodoxies of these forms, we throw into relief the question of just how accounts of space and time and constructed, deployed, and understood, within law, as well as in other fields of scholarship. This is more than examining sites for distributions along the axis of space and time, and more than configurations in space and time – it is about finding ways to think (image, diagram) how spatialities and temporalities are, in themselves, distributed.
Two constituencies have been invited to participate in this seminar – some have a specific interest in the study of co-ops and mutuals, and some have a more general interest in questions of methods. Our hope and anticipation is that the seminar will be fruitful for all of us, and that, in future spaces and times, it will inform the development of our work across a range of disciplines and sites.

Anne Bottomley ( and Nathan Moore (


10.30 onwards for registration and coffee
11.15 – 11.30 Welcome and Introduction – Anne Bottomley and Nathan Moore.
11.30 – 1.00 Maja Hojer (Copenhagen):‘The Cooperative Ideology, Nepotism and The        Market: Some Predicaments in Danish Housing Cooperatives.’
Anne Bottomley (KLS): ‘The People’s Port: Montages of Mutuality.’
Respondent: Melissa Demian (UKC).
1.00 – 1.30 Lunch
1.30 – 3.00 Joe Gerlach (Oxford): ‘Vernacular mappings; affect, virtuality, performance.’
Mark Vacher (Copenhagen): ‘From Space of Production to Production of Space – an analysis of decay and revival of an old factory site.’
Respondent: Margaret Davies (Flinders).
3.00 – 3.15 Tea
3.15 – 4.45 Nathan Moore (BBK and Bartlett):
‘Diagramming the Big Society: Management of Dividuality.’
Charlie Blake: ‘Inhuman Mediations: Neo-baroque cinema and evolutionary alterity’.
Respondent: Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos.
4.45 – 5.00 – Round table discussion.