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political theory

how do we define the word "collective"?

what is a true collective?
are there as many definitions of the word collective as there are collective organizations? What is a true collective?
Collective vs cooperative 09.Apr.2005 10:53


co-operatives are about workers, producers, consumers, etc having a share or the rights of the OWNERSHIP of whatever, whereas a collective is about the workers, producers,etc, having equal MANAGEMENT rights and decision-making responsibilities.

Co-ops usually have a board of directors that may or may not include workers, but collectives are run by the people who make the big decisions together.

Whether you work in a co-op or collective, you have to work under certain decisions that are made...it's just that in a co-op, you might have to live with decisions that you had no input into, but in a collective, you helped negotiate any decisions that were made.

So it's a lot harder for collectives to sell-out...

examples 09.Apr.2005 12:03


liz gave a great answer.

examples of collectives in town include the Back to Back Cafe, Liberty Hall, the Red & Black Cafe, Redwing Cafe, Free Geek, Q is for Choir, Magpie Messenger Service and City Bikes.

there are three food cooperatives in town: Food Front, Alberta Coop, and People's. People's is the only one of the three that is ALSO a collective, meaning the store is run by the workers. that arrangement, it's important to remember though, is with the blessings of the People's board of directors, which technically has the power to hire-and-fire and change that arrangement if it saw fit (which is really really unlikely).

Question? 09.Apr.2005 13:24


How does a collective like People's deal with and resolve productivity issues?

what a great newswire item 09.Apr.2005 14:39


I don't know if Liz's answer is etymologically "correct," but it's an important distinction and a great thing to talk about. This is a useful definition. Good job.

Coop and collective are not mutually exclusive 09.Apr.2005 15:28

done both

It is possible to set up an organization whereby it is owned by the community (the members) and operated democratically by the workers. Policy issues would have to be negotiated between the two constituencies. Ideally, the workers would have the protection of a union whose values and actual functioning parallel direct democracy, in order to protect aganist rouge power tripping member boards or other such tendencies that would undermine democracy within. On the same token, the workers should be required to negotiate with the community with regard to the end result of what is done or produced (ie. we could do without a collectively run GMO farm, or chemical manufacturer, that is not accountable to the community). Also, both constituencies are checks upon one another.

In short, a sort of decentalized socialist democracy and economic democracy, as a coalition between workers in an organization and the community it affects.

Unfortunately, the process to reform coops or collectives into a hybrid modelof direct democracy is tough, and it might be less effort tobuild them up anew.

say again 09.Apr.2005 15:58


to complicated

Collective is where you arrive after you decide to get together.

hmmm... 10.Apr.2005 13:06


"Unfortunately, the process to reform coops or collectives into a hybrid modelof direct democracy is tough, and it might be less effort tobuild them up anew."

huh?!? good luck. use what you have and build upon that, says i (one who works at a worker owned and democratically run company).

... 10.Apr.2005 15:22


I think "done both" is right. I did labor activism in Berkeley long enough to hear all kinds of employee gripes about the co-ops and collectives they worked for.

Of course all of society should be talking about this. This is the real relevant politics of a free country. Just imagine trying to discuss any of this with a regular American. What a tiny fraction of the population has enough experience with anything like this to see what "done both" sees.