The globalization of Co-operative movements:

"Globalization is uneven"said Ian Nederveen Pieterse in his book Globalization and culture. Cultures around the world are being shaped by changes in technology, economic & trade policies and cultural movements simultaneously. What happens when remote cultures in developing countries are suddenly exposed to new realms of information? What happens when capitalism and connectivity to the outside world is enhanced due to an outside force? What happens when finance, supply-demand, and competition from the outside world can isolate you and victimize you to a point wherein you are forced to join in the global scheme of things?

Organizations and localized groups of skilled individuals (in India) were unaware of the bearings of capitalism and globalization for a very long time, and yet the moment they were exposed to the vital role that globalization could play in their lives they adapted. Immediately. These local groups of people could be individuals who strive for change in their local neighborhoods first. The subsequent positive or negative repercussions of their skills will finallly incentivize their decision to "share" with the rest of the world and adapt to global norms.

Globalization however is not simple. It involves major changes in economic, social and technological perspectives within an already established local structure.This transformation isn't sudden.It takes more than anything for small towns in bureaucratic nations to showcase their skill sets. The bureaucracy, corruption and "small" mindedness of local politicians have put many a dreams to sleep. However according to Ian Nederveen Pieterse globalization goes together with regionalization. He also says that this trend of worldwide interconnectedness has been accompanied by clashing notions of cultural difference.Modernization has been erasing cultural bio diversity and the alienation, disenchantment and sense of standardization v/s customization that comes out of this globalization story is showing up everywhere. But then again what is cultural difference? Earlier cultural difference used to take the form of national differences and now different forms of differences (Gender, identity politics, ethnic and religious movement, minority rights and indigenous peoples) are getting more and more apparent.

Here is an overview of what I have tried to explore in the subsequent sections :
three case studies of co-operative movements in a developing country like India and the subsequent effects of globalization on them, the hybridization of their skill sets and the verge of McDonaldization of their products.
The simuataneous McDonaldization of society -

The recent idea of worldwide homogenization of societies through the impact of multi national corporations is known as McDonaldization. This global spread of capitalism thrives on the idea of universality and Americanization of the world. According to Pieterse colonialsm gave the world Eurpeanization and neo colonialism under US Hegemony gave the world Americanization.
In other words the world benefitted from America’s modernization MNC thesis of being efficient, calculable predictable and able to control labor and price relations.
However the beauty of Americanization is that every nation has its own brand of it. For example, Shannon Peters Talbott explores the workings of a MacDonalds in Russia and says that insteady of efficiency- there is queuing anf a lot of lingering in the McDonals in Moscow.And in fact instead of predictablity that draws consumers to this mcDonals it is the fact that it is absolutely unique to Russian culture.Often, customers are asked to come and linger in order to “soak up the atmosphere”. This is what is known as Glocalization and is commonly observed across industries and cultures.

Please take a look at the video below of the queue outside the Mc Donald’s in Moscow.

A beautiful way to look at this is that McDonald’s and KFC therefore do not sell cultural homogenization but on the contrary they give rise to new social and cultural norms. A lot of times people seem to complain about the loss of local culture but on the other hand the following case studies will prove to you that there is indeed an undeniable increase in the number of local people employed, quality of service, products etc.

American capitalism always creates a diverse and hybrid cultural outcome utilizing positive values of the present social/ cultural structure and mixing it with newer ,more global ones.

2. Globalization- a case in point for hybridity

Nicholas Thomas said that Hybridity is almost a good thing. Marwan M.Kraidy said that even though hybridity means a unique association of myriad ideas, concepts, thoughts and themes that are sometimes so varied that they contradict each other. But that is exactly what encompasses the “culture” of a place.

“The Idea of cultural hybridization is one of those decpetive notions which turns out, on examination to have lots of tricky connotations and theoretical implications”- John Tomlinson.

Hybridity refers mostly to culture but retains residual meanings related to the three interconnected realms of race, language and ethnicity. Globalization is this absolute melange that hybridity is trying to reinforce.Hybridization has several other names like Syncretism, creolization, metissage, or cross over. Sometimes the process of globalization maybe have some gaps that are actually sealed by hybridity. Since hybridity can also occur within a culture of a culture.

“Hybridizing processes have helped cultural traditions recruit new adherents, but cross cultural conversion was sucessful only when favored by a powerful set of political and economic incentives”- Marwan M. Kraidy.

So in favor of globalization , hybridity has always involved the partnership or fusion of distinct forms, styles, identities, cross-cultural contact which often requires the transcending of national borders as well as cultural boundaries. The occurrence of contact always involves a movement of some sort and in international communication contact basically involves the movement of cultural ideas through media programs or even through migration.

In hybridity the boundaries between domestic and foreign cultural influences are not always clearly divided. Cultural influences or “enmeshments” can occur at local, national and regional level. It is because of this that globalization makes an excellent case in point for hybridity.

Hybrid Art:
computer art.jpg

Where art is being created on the frontier of the Science and technology movement.

French African RNB music - an exemplification of hybridity within globalization.

3.Co-operatives in India:

Co-operation is not just a developing country movement, it is a global and worldwide movement. This movement hit india in the 20th century as a solution to rural indebtedness,however the movement transformed itself from merely being organizations of credit societies and diversified itself to other activities and purposes.

The Co-operative movement in India can be divided into pre independence and post independence era:
1) The first recorded co-operative movement in india was as early as 1904 and was set by the British government. In 1899 India suffered from a famine and so the government was forced to implement policies as measures for the famine victims. The British government in India decided to set up several organizations to help aid the victims and so passed the Act of co-operative societies act of 1904.
However these cooperatives were inherently flawed since there was no central agency to supervise these organizations and societies.
It was only post the great economic depression and the second world war that the co-operative planning committee was set up in 1945 and there were changes being seen across the rural landscape

2) The co-operative movement once again became a little stagnant post independence owing to the chaos of partition. But periodically every five years a new reform was being introduced to co-operatives.For example by the third plan brought about the reform of extension for co-operatives.
The co operative society for sugarcane, cotton, spinning, milk supply was proposed. Some concrete steps were taken to train the personnel's. The co operative training College at Pune and many regional centers were established to train the workers.

Central and state governments in India have been fairly instrumental in funding and the overall running of co-operative movements.
For instance in a study titled "An empirical study on management practices in co-operative sugar factories of Gujarat" talks about policy support and several state measures that have helped in the seamless manufacturing of sugar . Co-operative movements in india today cover about 95% of the villages in India and over 60 % of the rural population. Co-operative movements in India has helped generate employment and in the distribution of essential good and services in the country. Only Indian rural member of co-operative will tell you how beneficial co-operatives have been in terms of finances, availability of raw materials,marketing facilities, joint selling options,good storage facilities. etc.Members of co-operative societies end up becoming each others guides and counsellors in all walks of life.

The wider objective of the co-operative movement is of course to create a sense of self reliance along with building a strong sense of community especially in India's very fragmented rural society.It ensures the constant development of skill sets and creates a very strong sense of independence for the individual members of the community.

Primarily, rural co-operatives in India have played vital roles as credit organizations and societies. There has been steady increase in co- operative credit from Rs.3, 440 crores in 1984-85 to Rs.3,970 crores in 1990-91 & nearly Rs.20,660 crores in 1999-2000.

In the frenzy of the this global economic development, people often forget that India is first and foremost a predominantly agrarian economy. However nationalized banks and governments often forget that , and agricultural investment often gets neglected. Therefore co-operative movements in India have been a blessing for a lot of poor farmers.

In 90 countries of the world over 700 million individuals are part of co-operative movements

Two cases for the globalized co-operative movement.

1) MORA- a co-operative global movement
Mora's ethic, vision and genesis is indeed extremely special. When founder Ritika Mittal decided she was going to design her own Wedding sari- the traditional robe of an Indian woman little did she know that people would praise her so much for her designer skills. She then decided to quit her job as a television producer and devote her life to textiles, fabrics, design and weaving.
"Becoming a mechanised textile-and-billing-factory is not our thing. Staying true to our weavers and our customers...and our!"
Ritika said in her first week she ordered only 8 saris to be made by her local tailor.When the saris arrived she immediately got a phone call from one of her relatives who bought all 8 (and possibly sold it to some other people).
Mora sold its first eight handloom pieces in the first week, and they had no idea who they sold them to. Ritika said that
"this was not some impersonal business dealing, it was a communal sharing of a passion for textile, the handing-down of a legacy of rural artistry and it was imperative to be able to see whose mora it was going to be."

"mora's vision is two-fold: For every woman around the world to enjoy the delicious sensuality of a hand-loomed, all-natural Saree, and to create a pan-cultural community of spirited citizens who care to sustain the wondrous textile art of weaver communities around the globe."

Mora was just not about the sari. It was a battle against the synthetics. The market said that cotton and silk were difficult to maintain and were too stiff, whereas synthetics were easy to use and maintain. This attitude of the consumer has led to the economic deterioration and starvation of India's traditional weaving communities. Traditional communities have had to give up on their art and skills in order to give in to capitalism's demands of mass production and artificial threads.

Mora in a way wants to try and reverse all that by showcasing to the world the wonders of wearing traditional fabric, with style and panache and sell this age old tradition not just as a "going back to your roots" thing but also to the whole world.

Mora's ethic is :
To nurture, invigorate and revitalise the cultural heritage of India's natural textile traditions, by creating a collaborative community of weavers, rural artisans and their clientele, maintaining an absolute commitment to transparency across the entire value chain of the creative process

-Mora shuns Middlemen- They live with the weavers , eat with them, document their lives, discuss cost sheets with them and thus maintain complete openness and transparency with these rural weavers

-Mora is committed to stay away from the big box retail madness: Ritika says that it is important to her to see who she's working with and who her customers are.She says that their business has been working through a close knit conversation on facebook and through their blog.

Mora's fabrics:
As founder Ritika says:"
The thickness of the fabric, its colours, its smell, its texture: it is like a curious flirtation between me and the yarn. It sounds silly, but there is no better way to describe it. You touch it, you let it gently brush against your face, you let its colour leak into and under your skin. It is a relationship with the fabric - I see it befriending me, challenging me, whispering the story of its birth to me, in its weft and weave, its colour and the smell of the dye and the oils, the wood smoke and the earth that it has come to live with, until it lay unfurled before me."


Romantic? Not quite what I thought when I talked to her about the whole thing.
The cooperative sector accounts for 55 percent of the looms in the hand-weaving sector.This is a very promising number for mora.

In terms of scalability she says that she envisions Mora being a huge designer co-operative organization that continues to customize designer saris for women. Prices are currently on the affordable range and she is selling to women around the world.She says her orders from overseas aren't too many as yet but she definitely is selling a lot on the domestic side of things.

I think absolutely yes. Mora through its branding is selling a traditional indian woven sari to not only urban indians but to also the world over.This is evidence to the fact that Mora as a concept , clothing, piece of fashion is transcending all sorts of boundaries. Even Mora's branding and brochure is very "Indo-Western" like the image above. So, this is an excellent case of hybridization. The faint font even reads Maya Angelou's famous poem " Phenomenal woman".

2. Amul- another case of a co-operative global story

Amul is another extraordinary story in the history of co-operative movements. Its story is so inspirational that Bollywood even decided to make a movie about it.Please see up untill 1:04.

The "A" in Amul stands for Anand the name of the co-operative in the district of Kaira.
Basically angered by the manipulative trade practices of a private corporation named Polson, with the help of key members of the government the villagers of Kaira district decided to join hands and start their own co-operative milk movement.The co-operative was developed by Dr. Verghese Kurien along with H.M.Dalaya. Dalaya was the first individual in the world to make skimmed milk powder out of buffalo milk ( the primary source of milk in the district). It was this invention that proved to be extremely pertinent and helped Amul compete on the world scale with other brands on the market.

The Amul model is basically a three tier model.
This structure consists of a Dairy Cooperative Society at the village level affiliated to a Milk Union at the District level which in turn is further federated into a Milk Federation at the State level.This three tier structure was set up to perform the following activities:
  • Responsible for Marketing of Milk & Milk Products
  • Responsible for Procurement & Processing of Milk
  • Responsible for Collection of Milk
  • Responsible for Milk Production
The rest of India has emulated this model of a dairy co-operative today as well.

What started off as a group of individuals trying to make ends meet has turned into this today :

Does Amul make for a good Globalization story?
Yes it does. Amul today as a co-operative does not only server milk to the nation, but also cheese, ice cream, butter , margarine and other myriad dairy products. Amul literally taught Indians about what affordable ice- cream was for the very first time. But more than anything Amul as a global co-operative movement transformed the lives of women.
Across the developing world women are unprotected by government provisions and exploited by patriarchal structures. A lot of women in this district were beaten by their husbands, daughters married of early due to povery and children were deprived of an education because of the lack of funds. Amul changed all that. With Amul came economic independence for a group of women. These women broke the traditional bonds of their society and took responsibility of their own lives. Today in the village of Anand boys and girls both go to school, are employed by Amul and lead self sustaining lives.

The utilization of sophisticated distribution systems, the invention of skimmed milk poder from buffalo mil, the empowerment of women are all transcultural facets of this movement that make me safely state that the Amul co-operative movement is a globalized co-operaitve movement.


Co-operative movements in India are excellent examples of the globalization case. A 3000 year old civilization trying to come to terms of the diktats of western capitalism is what globalization is really about- a mix of your own with a touch or a lot of another's. This sense of being original or staying ttur to your own culture is fast diminishing in our open ended world of pop, media and art. Capitalism's success in the west is upheld almost everytime in the rural/ urban areas of developing India- and yet organizations like MORA are trying to retain their roots by employing western methodologies. That is the power of globalization. It truly seeps through man made boundaries and creates it's own world of a unique culture.