Co-op Capitalism: Cooperatives, International Development, and American Visions of Capitalism in the Twentieth Century


ACLS Fellowship Program




“Co-op Capitalism” reveals an important but unknown history of Americans who debated the nature of US capitalism and furthered their own economic development dreams through international cooperative ventures in the second half of the twentieth century. Americans were drawn into a world where governments and citizens navigated the Cold War’s ideological poles. From Swedish consumer co-ops to Israeli kibbutzim, Indian fertilizer plants and Nicaraguan coffee cooperatives, the cooperative appealed as a malleable “middle way,” neither corporate nor communist, that could be mobilized for competing agendas. While some US cooperators hailed “co-op” capitalism as a US export for the world, others saw in cooperatives blueprints to remake global capitalism and opportunities for international solidarity. “Co-op Capitalism” inserts new actors, new ideologies, new hopes, and new failures into the scholarly understanding of how Americans participated in international development and how development visions came home to shape US culture and society.