Contested cooperatives: intersections of State, family, and collective labor in rural Greece
Valentini Sampethai (University of Copenhagen)
Paper short abstract:
This paper looks at fishing cooperatives in rural Greece as part of a triptych made up of collective labor, the state, and the institution of the family, and explores the shifting dynamics of resistance and adaptation between these elements in the context of the current crisis.
Paper long abstract:
This paper draws from fieldwork with fishing cooperatives in rural Greece. It looks at cooperativism as a contested notion, examining the cooperatives in their entanglement with the institutions of the state and the family, rather than as an alternative work arrangement. Cooperatives emerge as the object of political technologies where state power is effected; struggles for access to resources are a key point where different relations between the state and the producers were molded, from clientelism to competitive auctions pitting cooperatives against each other and trapping them into indebtedness. Second, it is shown that the alliance between households and cooperatives constitutes a strategy for the social reproduction of both the former and the latter. Cooperatives offer opportunities for family members to work and make a small income, also providing products for self-consumption. In turn, the family constitutes an important source of labor power, enabling the mobilization of its members in tasks around the co-op through lines of authority based on gender and age. These dynamics are approached in their historicity, but also in their added importance as a coping mechanism that partly protects people from the precariousness of the current economic crisis. Overall, the paper assesses the role of cooperative labour in people's efforts to secure control over work and escape the insecurity, alienation, and bad working conditions they encounter elsewhere; in this, dependency towards the state and the banks and internal relations of authority based on familial gender and age divisions have substantial effects.