Exploring Cooperatives, Cooperation, and the Nature of Work in a Belizean Village
AbstractThis article examines how cultural models in the national political culture played out in a Belizean village whose culture was rooted in a quite different cultural model and characterized by ideals of self-reliance and individualism rooted in Yucatecan Maya culture. This is a study of eight worker cooperatives, of cooperation, and of individual work over a 34-year period, from 1979 to 2012 in the village of Bullet Tree Falls. This village is an historically agricultural village populated with Maya refugees from Mexico and Guatemala. I observed three distinct national political cultures, each seeking to promote local worker cooperatives. But generally, the national political culture did little to support the worker cooperatives. Only in the last phase of influence do we see what was necessary to make a worker cooperative organization somewhat functional. The paper concludes with observation of two enterprises where workers successfully participated, but not according to the formula for the cooperative. Here personnel could work independently but cooperated only when it proved useful. Recognition of positive features of the workplace environment suggests that investigating local cultural experience is an important and practicable effort, far more so than simply assuming the national political culture is viable on the local level.
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