How do co-op folks feel about the term Member compared to, say, Owner? It seems clear that within Capitalism, Membership is an increasingly weak & vague idea with little implication of ownership or democratic control.
In an world where you can be a "member" of things as varied as a gym, amazon prime, a youtube page, a zoo, a theme park, a political party, a car rental place, costco…
What term can consistently draw a firm line between co-ops & capitalist "perk programs" who sell a co-op vibe?
@hakanto Arizmendiarrieta sometimes used the term "worker owners" (trabajadores empresarios), but in English "owner" suggests mere ownership, as opposed to managerial control. Empresario is more like boss or CEO, implying responsibility and decision-making power. But in most of his writings Ariz. speaks of "persons" "human beings" and "people," resisting the reduction to a functional role.
@Matt_Noyes That's interesting about Arizmendiarrieta! I'm not too familiar with what terms co-ops have used in languages other than English so I appreciate that perspective.
My own experience of Owner in english implies more than mere ownership, since ownership in itself tends to grant control. The difference between something I own and something I don't own seems to have quite a lot to do with my ability to influence or control what happens to it (& others' willingness to respect that claim).
@hakanto That's true in cases of sole ownership or ownership of a majority of shares, but in co-ops -- like my credit union -- ownership is an abstraction, unless we form an activist group of members...
@Matt_Noyes Contribution and Responsibility are ideas I'd really like to emphasize when thinking about co-ops and terminology, but they have their own issues in addition to being somewhat inflexible. "Responsible Ones" is quite a mouthful; not too marketable or clear. "Contributors" is vague and feels too gift-giving rather than mutualistic (also doesn't imply ownership).
@Matt_Noyes However, expecting "responsibility" from Owners at all times & situations is also quite a burden. As a co-operator, I can't be responsible for everything -- there's too much going on. It's more satisfying to me to be responsible for what I can do well.
In a way, the odd blend of "control" and "distance" that I feel in the word Ownership seems to imply opportunity for a collective of Owners to entrust specific responsibilities to fellow Owners -- co-creating spaces for their agency.
Another factor is how well a term would work with a multi-stakeholder system. For example, at Ampled the terms are Artist-Owners & Worker-Owners. When Artist-Owners elect a Director, they are an Artist-Director.
The conciseness, consistency and self-obviousness in this schema is really effective. Makes the bylaws a pleasure to read & improves comprehensibility.
An empresari@ is a person that creates/runs empresas (i.e. businesses). It's more about being a founder/igniter/promoter (as in "impresario", btw), and less about being a boss or an owner (although sometimes that overlaps).
TL;DR, I would say "trabajadores empresarios" ~= "worker entrepreneurs".
I like emphasizing the dynamics of the relationship, with something like "co-operator", as someone else was suggesting somewhere in this thread.
@Zee sometimes uses "co-conspirator", which I personally like a lot, but is maybe too informal or tongue-in-cheek for some settings?
Frustrated by how the word "Member" seems co-opted by Capitalism at this point and thus is perhaps ineffective for attracting co-operators and being clear about co-ops' message and unique offer.
Inviting folks to "become a member!" feels quite vapid on its own from a marketing standpoint and requires supplemental explanations (often that involve the word ownership 😞 ).
That said, "Worker-Owner" "Client-Owner" and "Community-Owner" all feel good to me; especially as a way to disambiguate between "Investor-Owner" or the god-awful "Owner."
@anaulin @hakanto It's interesting, because in French empresario/a translates into something more like chef d'entreprise. Businessperson is okay but sounds too much like a mid-level manager, right? Spanish does have the word emprendedor and emprendimiento is used for entrepreneurship, while empresariales is used for business administration.
@hakanto in my co-op studies at the university it was explained that in a sense the co-op owns itself, ie. it's a common good for the members. This can be seen in the fact that a member isn't entitled to more than their own investment of the co-op capital, the rest is for the commons, as well as the surplus, and should not be demutualized.
Hence co-op members are not owners in the same sense as in a corporation, so terminological distinction can be useful.
@Stoori This is a fascinating explanation and perspective I'll certainly be reflecting on! Thank you for this.
Are there any relatively self-explanatory membership terms that you think express this dynamic? If you think the term Member expresses it best, why so?
@hakanto i guess it depends on language. English is not my native, and i did the studies in finnish, so i can't really comment on the nuances of english terminology.
@hakanto “Owner” is a static & one-dimensional term. It indicates a financial relationship. “Member” implies more active use and participation. I agree that capital has appropriated the term. Not sure what’s next.
@hakanto “Partner” is a suitable English term in many ways, except that it legally implies a specific type of business relationship and the inherent liability risk.
I think it's time to move beyond 'owner'. To something like 'contributor'. That is, to a commoning aesthetic rather than a property aesthetic. Property is so 19th century! So Bronze Age!!
The two other commoning dimensions that are inseparable from contributing/curating/cultivating are enjoying/animating/inhabiting, and stewarding/policing/defending/visioning/evolving.
That's a WHOLE bunch different from both member and owner. Way to go! ?
Prompting again on 'commoner' and 'contributor'
The political economy of commoning is way beyond capitalist ownership & liberal membership. Commoner is the stronger, more fundamental of the two, but commoning in practice depends on a finely tuned practice of contribution accounting-&-value(ing). As a transitional economics of dual power, some contributors put in labour, and some (aka 'users') put in money, some get paid money, some are recognised in other ways
@hakanto Depends upon the co-op arrangement. In the USA, I certainly don't feel like an "owner" or "partner" in either my credit union or local phone co-op. I'm not even sure "member" feels right, as they both seem like any other (non co-op) service provider, except for the annual member meeting.
I didn't join either with an expectation of having a say in business matters.
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