Educating the Commons Through Cooperatively Run Schools

  • David I. BackerEmail author


In this chapter, I am chiefly interested in articulating a theoretical claim that cooperatively run schools can educate the commons causally and reproductively. Cooperatively run schools educate the commons because going to school at a cooperative can cause commons to come about by reproducing the kinds of knowledge and skills necessary to maintain an existing commons. I will make this case by completing the theoretical background already begun in this introduction, then narrating the “educational genesis” of one of the world’s best-known large-scale industrial cooperatives: the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in Spain. After narrating that educational genesis as a kind of founding myth, I claim that cooperatively run schools can teach the commons and lay out a brief set of considerations for how to apply this strategy in the United States in the early twenty-first century.


Cooperative Learning Charter School Educational Project Capitalist Mode Capitalist Enterprise 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Allen, B. (2013). A role for cooperatives in managing and governing common pool resources and common property systems. InCooperative economics: Towards a socio-ecological economic paradigm. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  2. Azurmendi, J. (1984). El hombre cooperativo: Pensamiento de Arizmendiarrieta [Cooperative man: The thought of Arizmendiarrieta]. Mondragon: Caja Laboral Popular.Google Scholar
  3. Bollier, D. (2002). Silent theft: The private plunder of our common wealth. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Bradley, K., & Gelb, A. H. (1983). Cooperation at work: The Mondragon experience. London: Heinemann Educational Books.Google Scholar
  5. Byrne, K., & Healy, S. (2006). Cooperative subjects: Toward a post-fantasmatic enjoyment of the economy. Rethinking Marxism, 18(2), 241–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Deller, S., Hoyt, A., Hueth, B., & Sundaram-Stukel, R. (2009). Research on the economic impact of cooperatives. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Cooperatives.Google Scholar
  7. De Peuter, G., & Dyer-Witheford, N. (2010). Commons and cooperatives. Affinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture, and Action, 4(1). Retrieved from
  8. Eizenberg, E. (2012). Actually existing commons: Three moments of space of community gardens in New York City. Antipode, 44(3), 764–782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Florida, R., & Mellander, C. (2014). Segregated city: The geography of economic segregation in America’s metros. Martin Prosperity Institute. Retrieved from
  10. Gibson-Graham, J. K. (1996). “The” end of capitalism (as we knew it): A feminist critique of political economy; with a new introduction. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  11. Gibson-Graham, J. K. (2003). Enabling ethical economies: Cooperativism and class. Critical Sociology, 29(2), 123–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gibson-Graham, J. K. (2006). A postcapitalist politics. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  13. Gutek, G. L. (1972). New harmony: An example of communitarian education*. Educational Theory, 22(1), 34–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hardt, H., & Negri, A. (2009). Commonwealth. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.Google Scholar
  15. Holdren, N., & Shukaitis, S. (Eds.). (2006). Re(in)fusing the commons. The Commoner, 11.
  16. Johnson, A. G., & Whyte, W. F. (1977). Mondragon system of worker production cooperatives. The. Indus. & Lab. Rel. Rev., 31, 18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Holubec, E. J. (1988). Cooperation in the classroom. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Co..Google Scholar
  18. Kasmir, S. (1996). The myth of Mondragon: Cooperatives, politics, and working class life in a Basque town. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  19. Kerchner, C., & Muffinger, L. S. (2010). Can teachers run their own schools. Claremont, CA: Claremont Graduate University.Google Scholar
  20. Laclau, E., & Mouffe, C. (2001). Hegemony and socialist strategy: Towards a radical democratic politics. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  21. Malott, C. S., & Ford, D. (2015). Marx, capital, and education. New York: Peter Lang.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McClintock, R. (2012). Enough: A pedagogic speculation. New York: Collaboratory for Liberal Learning.Google Scholar
  23. McMurtry, J. (1999). The cancer stage of capitalism. London: Pluto.Google Scholar
  24. Meek, C. B., & Woodworth, W. P. (1990). Technical training and enterpRse: Mondragon’s educational system and its implications for other cooperatives. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 11(4), 505–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Meyerhoff, E. L. (2013). Political theory for an alter-university movement: Decolonial, abolitionist study within, against, and beyond the education regime. Doctoral dissertation, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.Google Scholar
  26. Midnight Notes. (1992). Midnight oil: Work, energy, war, 1973–1992. New York: Autonomedia.Google Scholar
  27. Noterman, E. (2015). Beyond tragedy: Differential commoning in a manufactured housing cooperative. Antipode, 48(2), 433–452.Google Scholar
  28. Oakeshott, R. (1990). The case for workers’ co-ops. Basingstoke: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ornelas-Navarro, J. C. (1980). Producer cooperatives and schooling: The case of Mondragon. Doctoral dissertation/PhD thesis, Stanford University, California.Google Scholar
  30. Ostrom, E. (2010). Beyond markets and states: Polycentric governance of complex economic systems. Transnational Corporations Review, 2(2), 1–12.Google Scholar
  31. Ostrom, V., & Ostrom, E. (1977). Public goods and public choices. In E. S. Savas (Ed.), Alternatives for delivering public services: Toward improved performance (pp. 7–49). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  32. Polanyi, K. (1944). The great transformation: The political and economic origins of our time. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  33. Robinson, E. A. (1955). Fourier as philosopher. Educational Theory, 5(1), 16–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rosen, M. (1987). Producer co-operatives, education and the dialectic logic of organization. Praxis International, 7(1), 111–124.Google Scholar
  35. Shaw, L. A. (2012). Quiet revolution: Co-operative schools in the UK. Retrieved from
  36. Shiva, V. (2005). Earth democracy. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.Google Scholar
  37. Sidwell, R. T. (1972). “All tongue and no hand”: Two theories of socialist education in England before owen. Educational Theory, 22(1), 78–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Thiel, G. R., & Hartley, N. T. (1997). Cooperative education: A natural synergy between business and academia. SAM Advanced Management Journal, 62(3), 19–24.Google Scholar
  39. Whyte, W. F., & Whyte, K. K. (1991). Making Mondragon: The growth and dynamics of the worker cooperative complex (No. 14). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Wolff, R. (2012). Yes, there is an alternative to capitalism: Mondragon shows the way. The Guardian, p. 24.Google Scholar
  41. Woodin, T. (2014). Co-operative schools: Putting values into practice. InCo-operation, learning and co-operative values: Contemporary issues in education (pp. 112–127). London: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.West Chester University of PennsylvaniaWest Chester, PAUSA

Personalised recommendations