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Cooperatives: regulation as a promising analytical framework?

Submission of abstracts: 1st September 2021
Deadline for selected papers: 28 February 2022

Coordination: Thomas Lamarche ( & Nadine Richez-Battesti (

Call for papers

Cooperatives and the Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) more broadly are a field of practice that has remained somewhat on the margins of economic analysis, despite active spaces for academic and extra-academic exchanges. The institutionalist approach itself struggles to capitalize on the numerous empirical works that it has inspired (notably Moulaert et al., 2013; Demoustier & Colletis, 2012; Richez-Battesti & Vallade, 2012; Petrella & Richez-Battesti, 2014; Pecqueur & Itçaina, 2012; Richez-Battesti & Defourny, 2017; Eynaud & Laville, 2018; Bodet & Lamarche, 2020) or that have been produced in other disciplines (e.g. critical sociology: Simonet, 2010, 2018; Bory, 2008; Hély, 2009, 2019; Hély & Moulévrier, 2013). It does not always manage to situate itself with regard to the normative discourses on cooperatives and SSE, which often suffer from a conceptualization deficit and remain rooted in monographic approaches. In this field, fostered by reflexive practices, institutionalist concepts and approaches have yet to be articulated with studies rooted in practices. This is true both for research, with a view to moving up a gear or attaining greater generality, and for practices in order to enhance the perspective provided by research. A first ambition of this call for papers is therefore to fill these various gaps. It is thus a question of going beyond monographs alone and placing them in a theoretical framework that takes into account both the contexts and the diversity of practices and of forms of coordination, without necessarily reducing the approach to actor strategies.

No doubt the relative silence of institutionalism with regard to cooperatives can be explained by its recent history: its promoters had to position themselves vis-à-vis the standard analysis that prevailed at the time, without historicity and focused on instrumental rationality alone, in order to build their framework for analysing crises and the dynamics of capitalism (Boltanski & Thévenot, 1987; Boyer & Saillard, 1995, etc.). No doubt heterodox thinking was also carried along by their agendas, which left little room for relatively marginal practices or practices that did not feature much in the overall dynamics; one of their objectives being the characterization of capitalist dynamics.

It is therefore important to gain a better understanding of the productive dynamics specific to cooperatives in terms of their sectoral or territorial anchorage, their organizational forms and their effects on the wage relationship, or the articulation between the nature of ownership, the governance and the strategic choices of these democratic (or participatory) organizations. In particular, it is a question of better characterizing the renewal of forms and mechanisms of production. The variety of articulations between production and consumption, the mechanisms for the circulation of goods and services, are all specificities likely to be conveyed by cooperatives. There are socio-economic and socio-political models of the enterprise that can shed light on and feed the transitions underway as well as a creative mindset (mindsets that structure the cooperative approaches, whether they are seen as a utopia in action, a creative margin or a social innovation). Cooperatives are thus a particular heuristic object, worked on more in the literature than other SSE structures, probably because they derive first of all from economic/productive activity.

The diversity of practices within cooperatives is a challenge at the theoretical level. Within the cooperative movement, very different configurations coexist, ranging from marginality to sectoral dominance. Can they be captured within the same analytical framework? What concepts and survey tools enable us to understand their common structure – if they have one – as well as the dynamics of differentiation? And finally, where is the common ground between a cooperative subject to international competition such as Mondragon, a cooperative platform such as autonomous platform-coops, worker coops, and SCICs (coops with multiple partners – workers-cities-consumers, NGOs, etc.).

To understand this diversity, some developments in regulation theory, which have focused on the variety of territorial and sectoral configurations (Laurent & Du Tertre, 2008), offer an interesting perspective. Analysis in terms of meso spaces allows us to consider the internal regulation by which this or that type of business structure or actor reproduces itself, while taking into account the dialectical relationship of these spaces with the overall dynamic, accumulation and its mode of regulation. The issue of meso areas therefore seeks to grasp the tensions linked to historical, social, economic or ecological dynamics within the dynamics of accumulation (Lamarche et al., 2021). Meso analysis thus makes it possible to account for the processes of differentiation based on the relative autonomy of these different spaces and on the action of the stakeholders.

The call is focused on companies with cooperative status. The contributions may also consider other statutory forms of SSE or companies sharing common interests with SSE. It is well known that this field is thus shaped, for example, by the expansion of social business, an approach peculiar to the neo-liberal period. The research agenda could also be supported by research into alternative forms of organization, while keeping a critical eye on what can happen in their name.

The proposals expected for this issue of the Revue de la Regulation may take the following form:

1. The exploration of the variety of forms that the cooperative system (or other SSE structures) has taken in history and that it is taking today around the world, linking the varieties studied (forms of organization) to the institutional and political contexts of their development, in order to propose an analysis of them. The Journal is interested in regulationist analysis, however this approach does not exclude other institutionalist approaches in social economy or other methods of analysis in social sciences.

2. The analysis of relations between the cooperative world, the world of classical capital companies and the non profit sector. The aim here is to identify the specific nature of one or other of these worlds, to discuss the movement of managers/executives, professional and social mobility in and around this microcosm.

3. The analysis of the links between meso issues and institutionalist approaches, based on sectoral or territorial logics. For example, this could involve examining how actors and organizations develop localized compromises (around a sector, a territory, a profession or an organizational form). The analysis could focus on understanding how a differentiation from the dominant regime operates (even inadequately), or on the articulation of this meso level with the overall regulation.

4. The cooperative and social economy field in different areas, particularly in France and Europe, as well as using an epistemology of the global South in order to grasp the diversity of collective mobilization in the South.

5. Agricultural cooperativism which, in many cases, has moved away from its original ideal, but which knows how to renew itself, notably through food, agro-ecological and proximity issues.


Abstracts are to be sent to & 2 to 4 pages (6,000 to 12,000 characters including spaces), taking care to clearly specify the question, the way it is dealt with and the materials and/or conceptual field involved.

Submission of abstracts: 1st September 2021

Feedback to authors: 1st November 2021


Deadline for selected papers: 28 February 2022


Bodet C. & T. Lamarche (2020), « Des coopératives de travail du xixe siècle aux CAE et aux SCIC : les coopératives comme espace méso critique », RECMA, vol. 358, no 4, p. 72-86. DOI :

Boltanski L. & L. Thévenot (1987), « Les économies de la grandeur », Cahiers du centre d’études de l’emploi, no 31, Paris, Puf.

Bory A. (2008), « De la générosité en entreprise. Mécénat et bénévolat dans les grandes entreprises en France et aux États-Unis », Thèse de doctorat en sociologie, Université Paris 1.

Boyer R. & Y. Saillard (1995), Théorie de la régulation. L’état des savoirs, Paris, La Découverte, coll. « Recherches ».

Demoustier D. & G. Colletis (2012), « L’économie sociale et solidaire face à la crise : simple résistance ou participation au changement ? », RECMA, vol. 325, no 3, p. 21-35. DOI :

Eynaud P. & J.-L. Laville (2018), « Joining the commons with social and solidarity economy research. Towards the renewal of critical thinking and emancipation », Revista de Economia Solidária, no 11, p. 12-29.

Hély M. (2019), « Genèse de “l’entreprise de l’ESS” et désétatisation de l’intérêt général », Informations sociales, vol. 199, no 1, 2019, p. 88-94. DOI :

Hély M. & P. Moulévrier (2013), L’économie sociale et solidaire : de l’utopie aux pratiques, Paris, La Dispute, coll. « Travail et salariat ».

Lamarche T., Nieddu M., Grouiez P., Chanteau J.-P., Labrousse A., Michel S. & J. Vercueil (2021), « Saisir les processus méso : une approche régulationniste », Économie Appliquée, no 1, à paraître.

Laurent C. & Ch. Du Tertre(dir.) (2008), Secteurs et territoires dans les régulations émergentes, Paris, L’Harmattan, coll. « Économiques ».

Moulaert F., MacCallum D., Mehmood A. & H. Hamdouch (eds) (2013), The International Handbook on Social Innovation, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar publishing.

Petrella F. & N. Richez-Battesti (2014), « Social entrepreneur, Socialentrepreneurship, social entreprise: semantics and controversies », Journal of Innovation Economics and Management, vol.  14, no 2, p. 143-156. DOI :

Pecqueur B. & X. Itçaina (2012), « Économie sociale et solidaire et territoire : un couple allant de soi ? », RECMA, vol. 325, no 3, p. 48-64. DOI :

Richez-Battesti N& J. Defourny (2017), « Les coopératives », in Defourny J. & M. Nyssens, Économie sociale et Solidaire, Louvain-la-Neuve, De Boeck, coll. « Ouvertures Economiques ».

Richez-Battesti N. & D. Vallade (2012), « Éditorial : innovation sociale, normalisation et régulation », Innovations, vol. 38, no 2, p. 5-15. DOI :

Simonet M. (2018), Travail gratuit : la nouvelle exploitation ?, Paris, Textuel, coll. « Petite encyclopédie critique ».

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