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    Constituting the co-operative: law and the political in the history of the English co-operative movement

    Mulqueen, Tara Ann (2019) Constituting the co-operative: law and the political in the history of the English co-operative movement. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Co-operatives are often regarded as alternatives to capitalist forms of business organisation. This thesis argues that this alterity has been circumscribed by the legal recognition and constitution of co-operatives as bodies corporate within a broader system of political economy in the mid-nineteenth century, in which co-operatives came to be regarded primarily as commercial entities. Drawing on the work of Michel Foucault, this thesis pursues a genealogy of the co-operative in order to expose the conditions of its constitution, beginning with a critique of dominant historiographical approaches to the co-operative movement that regard legal recognition as ‘enabling’ for a co-operative form that already existed outside the law. Following an alternative historical account that locates the beginnings of the co-operative movement in the late eighteenth century, in what E.P. Thompson referred to as the ‘moral economy of the English crowd’, this thesis situates legal recognition within shifting forms of power and governmentality in the creation of the modern state, while also emphasising the historicity of the legal form of the body corporate. The body corporate imports a transcendent form of unity from the medieval church that becomes normalised in the nineteenth century as part of the emergence of liberal and biopolitical governmentality, serving as a form of metaphysical enclosure that facilitates market discipline. While co-operatives do offer a meaningful alternative by virtue of an ethos of mutuality derived from the moral economy, this thesis argues that legal recognition was depoliticising for the co-operative, not in the narrow terms of political economy, but through what Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy refer to as ‘the closure of the political’.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Additional Information: Date of PhD award confirmed as 2019 by registry
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2019 15:08
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 13:59


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