by John Restakis

Humanizing the Economy
Editions:Paperback: $ 24.95
ISBN: 288

At the close of the twentieth century, corporate capitalism extended its reach over the globe. While its defenders argue that globalization is the only way forward for modern, democratic societies, the spread of this system is failing to meet even the most basic needs of billions of individuals around the world. Moreover, the entrenchment of this free market system is undermining the foundations of healthy societies, caring communities, and personal wellbeing.

Humanizing the Economy shows how co-operative models for economic and social development can create a more equitable, just, and humane future. With over 800 million members in 85 countries and a long history linking economics to social values, the co-operative movement is the most powerful grassroots movement in the world. Its future as an alternative to corporate capitalism is explored through a wide range of real-world examples including:

  • Emilia Romagna's co-operative economy in Northern Italy
  • Argentina’s recovered factory movement (see video below)
  • Japan’s consumer and health co-operatives

Highlighting the hopes and struggles of everyday people seeking to make their world a better place, Humanizing the Economy is essential reading for anyone who cares about the reform of economics, globalization, and social justice.

Reviews:Andrew Heintzman on Alternatives Journal; Canada's Ecological Voice wrote:

"Where Restakis breaks new ground is by offering co-operation as a real and pragmatic solution to the negative consequences of the globalized capitalist system. He focuses primarily on formal co-operative organizations: Enterprises that are owned by members, each of whom invests an equal amount of equity in the business and each of whom has an equal say in decision making. [...] Restakis writes beautifully. His seven examples of co-operatives in practice are particularly poignant, providing socio-historical information on the regions in which they are located. He also includes records of conversations with co-operative members regarding how these organizations have had an impact on their lives, and descriptions of local sights and sounds so vivid that you feel you are on location. It is these real-world examples that may most inspire environmental activists, as they illustrate that market relations can serve environmental and social goals. [...] Restakis also largely overlooks some of the tensions and contradictions within the co-operative movement. Not all co-operatives follow sustainable practices, nor do they all treat workers equitably or adhere to truly democratic practices. The adoption of the co-operative form never guarantees that these things will take place. After all, some co-operatives operate oil refineries or are immersed in agribusiness. It is the co-operative form combined with the hard work and commitment of its members to a moral and sustainable economy that makes the difference. Although the book was written for community developers, the volume is appropriate for undergraduate or graduate students in environmental studies, community studies or business."

Durahan Islam on Canadian Journal of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research wrote:

"Humanizing the Economy: Co-operatives in the Age of Capital is an interesting, insightful, and informative book that shows how cooperative models for economic and social development can create a more equitable, just, and humane future. The book is well written, persuasive, and consistent; and the author’s claims are well supported by evidence from all over the world. Humanizing the Economy is a recommended reading for researchers, activists, practitioners, policymakers, and students across a wide range of disciplines who are interested in the reform of economics, globalization, and social justice. The author holds the reader’s attention and interest from the beginning to the end of the book in a manner that is both intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking. [...] As a complete work, Humanizing the Economy is very well written, jargon-free, and thought-provoking. The author’s logical flow of arguments convinces the reader that ordinary people can take direct economic action to address their own needs by participating in cooperative movements. To reinforce the success stories of the cooperative movement, Restakis mixes history and ideas in an account that is personal, passionate, and informed. The cooperative principles emphasize rebuilding the social fabric of a community by healing and empowering marginalized people and their lives. Thus, the author advocates that community leaders could seek this proven and effective policy option as a way to build a more humane society."

Crystal Tremblay on Community Development Journal wrote:

"Humanizing the Economy: Co-operatives in the Age of Capital by John Restakis is an excellent, easily accessible read, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the movement towards an alternative and equitable economy. [...] His book provides a rich and well-researchedaccount of the failures and inhumane realities of the dominant capitalisteconomy and how communities are forging together in the vision for eco-nomic justice in advanced industrial societies as well as in developing countries. Humanizing the Economy is a timely and urgently needed contributionto the field of social economy, participatory democracy, civic engagementand social justice. [...] A co-operative economy, Restakis argues, shows us an alternative model of economic and social exchange based on co-operation and reciprocity ‘the requirements of an authentic form of human living, the form of life in which economics is an extension of humane societies’ (p. 225). [...] He successfully achieves the three main objectives that he sets out at the beginning of the book: (i) to establish some of the historical and theoretical questions surrounding economic democracy, (ii) to flesh out how these ideas have been realized in the stories of people and communities that have struggled to make a more human economics, and (iii) to inspire a glimpse of what is possible for the future if the principles and promise of co-operation are made real."

Restakis about This Book

Table of Contents of Humanizing the Economy

  1. The Grand Delusion (Homo Economicus /Industrialization and Social Defence)
  2. The Materialization of Dreams (The Age of Revolt / Rochdale / A Brief History of Nowhere / Co-operativism and Socialism / Socializing Capital / Stages of Co-operation)
  3. Co-operation Italian Style (The Fascist Repression / Renaissance of the Italian Co-operatives)
  4. The Emilian Model and the Socialization of Capital (The Rise of Regions / The Emilian Model)
  5. Social Co-ops and Social Care (On Civil Society and the Social Economy / On Reciprocity / Social Co-operatives / The Case for a Co-op Approach to Social Care / Beyond Defensiveness  / Creating a Social Market)
  6. Japan (Product Labeling and Advocacy / Workers’ Collective Movement / Health and Happiness / Elder Care)
  7. The Daughters of Kali (Sonagachi /The Stories /A Terrible Reflection)
  8. Fair Trade and the Empire of Tea (Fair Trade and Co-operation /The Fair Trade Network /Tea / The Small Organic Farmers Association / Fair Trade on the Ground / The Seductions of Success / Beyond Commodities — Going Glocal / The Future of Fair Trade / Politics)
  9. Argentina: Occupy, Resist, Produce (New World, Old Habits / Occupy, Resist, Produce / Zanon / Co-op and Community / Brukman / An Awakening / The Road Ahead)
  10. The Crisis of Community (The Decline of Social Capital / The End of Authenticity / Shadowland / Reciprocity and Restoration / The Meaning of Work)
  11. Humanizing the Economy (Co-operatives in the Age of Capital / The Future of an Idea / Happiness Matters / Commons Sense / Japan’s Fishing Co-operatives / Ozone / Globalizing Localism)

About John Restakis

John RestakisJohn Restakis has been active in the co-op movement for 15 years. He is the Executive Director of the BC Co-operative Association and has been a consultant for co-op development projects in Africa and Asia. A pioneering researcher into international co-operative economies, he writes and lectures on economic democracy and the role of co-operatives in humanizing economies.

Read why he wrote this book