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When a Worker's Cooperative Works: The Case of Kerala Dinesh Beedi

60 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2002  

G. Mitu Gulati

Duke University School of Law

Thomas M. Isaac

Center for Development Studies

William A. Klein

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Date Written: April 24, 2002

Abstract

The literature on worker cooperatives is dominated by explanations of why they do not work and why, accordingly, they are so rare. This paper presents a case study of a large worker cooperative in South India that has worked well for a long time. This cooperative illustrates, among other things, that worker control and worker democracy are not necessarily inconsistent with the degree of hierarchy and delegation that may be essential to effective operation. The cooperative has been able to compete despite paying wages and benefits that are dramatically higher than those paid by its competitors, while at the same time providing far better working conditions. How it has been able to do this is something of a puzzle. Part of the explanation is good fortune at its inception in attracting effective, honest, and dedicated managers and, subsequently, in avoiding government involvement and in being able to ignore cumbersome and unsuitable legal rules. Perhaps more important is the workplace culture and the ability to harness forms of mutual monitoring not available to competitors. At the end of the day it is unclear how much of the success of the cooperative is a function of its cooperative nature and how much is a product of its unique circumstances. Still, the story of this enterprise offers useful lessons in the organization of economic activity, particularly in the importance of nonlegal mechanisms for maximizing individual cooperative productivity.

Suggested Citation

Gulati, G. Mitu and Isaac, Thomas M. and Klein, William A., When a Worker's Cooperative Works: The Case of Kerala Dinesh Beedi (April 24, 2002). UCLA Law Review, No. 5, June 2002. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=308759 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.308759

Gaurang Mitu Gulati (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

Thomas M. Isaac

Center for Development Studies

Trivandrum 695 011, Kerala
India

William A. Klein

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States
310-825-1485 (Phone)
310-825-6023 (Fax)

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