Philosophy of Co-operative Organizing: Sindicalism to Spirituality


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John McNamara and Michael Johnson have been raising some interesting discussions around the co-operative movement.  John McNamara's discussion of syndicalism and distributism in particular, following his reading of Race Matthews' book, has spurred my interest in the topic of philosophical approaches to co-operative organizing.

      While I see syndicalism and distributism as both interesting and important, I see them as only partial foundations.  Corporate advertising culture probably reflects the basic issues structuring obstacles in large numbers of the public.  Seymour Halleck, MD, a doctor trained at the Menninger Clinic, wrote the Politics of Therapy in the 1970s, for example.  Although not so current, Halleck addresses the issue of people in therapy and the need to address larger systemic issues, particularly the political.  A few years earlier, radical theologian Alan Watts had begun writing works like Psychotherapy East and West and discussing issues of cultural conditioning.  More recently, Ted Rozsak et al. have collected a range of articles in their book Ecopsychology relating psychological health in a related way to environmental and cultural concerns.  More recently, Thom Hartmann, a psychotherapist, has written Unequal Protection: The Corporate Theft of Rights. 

        The issue I see in weighing the question of promoting a co-operative culture begins to address new levels of relevant components in referring to works like those of Halleck, Watts, Rozsak et al., and Hartmann.  My own background involved a large degree of involvement in the popular psychology movement, and I see it as relevant to large numbers involved in the self-help movement in the U.S. and elsewhere.  In particular, for people becoming conscious of their consumer habits and the discomfort of materialistic diversions, psychotherapeutic thought offers a new clarity of awareness.  In my own studies of Biological Anthropology in college, I remember how the subject of emotions in studying human systems was emerging in my investigations.  From the structure of our brains to the study of abnormal behavior, emotional dynamics are not just abnormal in themselves as some people imply in using the term "irrational."  Closer to the insights of Howard Gardner's "multiple intelligences," and Daniel Goleman's "emotioinal intelligence," a person's understanding of emotions is a foundation of the study of psychology.  For those of us talking about economics and co-operatives, emotions form a basic part of peoples' conditioning and thought about their lives, as consumer-oriented and corporate profit focussed as they might be.

      I see many different avenues to advance this discussion, depending on any of the diverse perspectives in the field.  I suppose one strong exercise to engage in might be to pose the connections between some relevant practitioners.  Jack Kornfield, John Bradshaw, Marshall Rosenberg, Michael Lerner, Michael Harner, Matthew Fox, and Virginia Satir are some therapists with systems that offer powerful tools for living and interrelating.  Moreover, Jack Kornfield is a trained Buddhist monk, Matthew Fox an ex-communicated Catholic monk, while Michael Harner is a shaman.  if we engage their ideas, we can begin a dialogue with liberation theologists like Leonardo Boff, and the perspective of Jose Arizmendiarrieta, the priest we know by name pretty well through discussions of Mondragon.

       Building on these thoughts, I'd like to explore some of the possibilities and debates around advancing co-operative culture in modern America.