Cooperativism in a credit crisis: lessons from the Argentine worker takeovers
Contemporary visions of cooperativism – as a political project to limit the social consequences of selfregulating credit markets – inform regulatory debates across the political spectrum. Based on historical examples where similar visions of cooperativism and self-regulation have failed, this article explores the mechanisms by which cooperatives can successfully negotiate the failure of credit markets. It is in this context that lessons can be learned from recent worker takeovers that followed the Argentine debt default in 2001. In 2001, Argentine workers took over the factories that employed them and proceeded to successfully negotiate their way through the credit crisis triggered by the Argentine debt default as cooperatives. The workers resumed – and in some cases sustained – production in factories where they were formerly employed. Most of the takeovers were organised (and subsequently legally recognised) as cooperatives and some continue to hold the factories as such. Their success – albeit for limited periods for most – is premised on a fundamental restructuring of the property rights that underpinned pre-default, credit markets. In the case of Argentina, the debt default and the fundamental restructuring this entailed had political consequences in so far as its reliance on self-regulating credit markets had to be renegotiated. This article concludes by showing that self-regulating credit markets engender forms of corporatism and this is – in the absence of a similar political renegotiation – inimical to contemporary visions of cooperativism.