It is easy enough to imagine that ‘civil society’ is what happens outside and after work, a sphere which somehow stands in opposition to the economic. But work organizations are also an element of what it means to be a citizen, providing messages and models for hierarchy, decision making, expertise, reward and so on. This seminar will explore the role of the worker owned and controlled organization in producing democracy, in creating senses of empowerment and meaning, as well as encouraging decision making which is oriented towards organizational, social and ecological sustainability rather than shareholder value.
However, both New Labour and the coalition government were keen on co-operative structures for rather different reasons, because they offered an opportunity to move ownership and risk for certain public sector operations to the private sector. The idea of the ‘big society’ integrated the free market with a theory of social solidarity based on hierarchy and voluntarism. Whether supported by Red Tories or Blue Labour, it has been suggested that the co-operative and mutual are then used as a way to privatise public goods by using the idea of civil society as cover.
This seminar will consider both the positive and negative evaluations of a co-operative economy with reference to the renewal of civil society. We will ask about the relationship between co-operatives and mutual and the state, as well as considering whether workplace democracy is a model for wider senses of citizenship. Our speakers will provide analysis and provocation, and we will ensure that there is plenty of time for audience interaction. All with an interest in the area are welcome, but we do have a limit of forty participants so please book to reserve a place.
Our main speaker will be:
Ed Mayo - Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, the UK trade association for co-operatives. Mayo rose to prominence as director of the New Economics Foundation, a leading think-tank, looking at ethical market activity, local economies and public service reform. He is also the former Chief Executive of the British National Consumer Council and CEO of the NCC's successor, Consumer Focus. In June 2003 The Guardian nominated him as one of the top 100 most influential figures in British social policy and in November 2004 commented that ‘from cancelling third world debt to justice for working-class consumers, Ed Mayo is a key figure in social innovation.
We will follow this plenary with round tables from four to six other academics, activists and co-operators. We want this to be a day of dialogue, so will be asking all our other presenters to be making short interventions and encouraging as much audience participation as possible.
The Venue and the Organizers
College Court is the University of Leicester conference hotel , 2.7 miles from Leicester city centre. http://collegecourt.co.uk/, Knighton Rd, Leicester LE2 3UF, 0116 244 9669.
The seminar is being organized locally by Chris Land and Martin Parker from the School of Business at Leicester University, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have any questions.