[By Yuichiro Nakagawa, professor emeritus of Meiji University]
On April 1, Japan Co-operative Alliance (JCA) was established to serve as the national center for 17 cooperatives, including the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA-ZENCHU), Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union (JCCU), National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations (ZENGYOREN), National Federation of Forest Owners’ Co-operative Associations (ZENMORIREN), Japan Workers’ Co-operative Union (Jigyodan), National Federation of University Co-operative Associations (NFUCA) and Japanese Health and Welfare Co-operative Associations (HeW CO-OP Japan). I would like to pay my respects to the group for setting the goal of sharing a sense of solidarity and being responsible for the people’s future.
I believe that sustainable development of Japan’s cooperative movement in the 21st century becomes possible only through sharing of such sense of solidarity before anything else.
Regarding this sense of solidarity, I am reminded of cooperative activist Alexander Laidlaw, who criticized the rise of excessive market fundamentalism in his speech to the 1980 congress of the International Co-operative Alliance in Moscow. He called the late 20th century “crazy times” and stated that cooperatives should be the “isle of senses” amidst times of crisis.
That is to say, in order for cooperatives to truly play their socioeconomic roles as isle of senses, they must recreate conditions for shaping new forms and order through nonprofit, cooperative projects.
We also understood that the actual process of cooperatives playing the socioeconomic roles is called cooperative movements. In other words, we learned through the Laidlaw report that sustainable development of cooperative movements and activities will become possible only when people of cooperatives share the sense of solidarity.
Allow me to mention here that I recently published a book titled “Common Sense of Cooperatives,” named after “Common Sense,” a pamphlet published in 1776 by Thomas Paine who advocated American colonies’ independence from Great Britain. Why common sense? It is because common sense means the awareness that everybody shares and the ability to make good, practical judgement that require no special knowledge.
Cooperation in lifeworld
Through this book, I want to convey the fact that cooperative movements and activities are the subjects of consciousness that anyone can share in his or her lifeworld – the sum total of physical surroundings and everyday experiences that make up an individual’s world – and are subject to healthy and practical judgement. Putting it another way, we have to be aware of the nature of human relationships – that we are leading our lives by cooperating and collaborating with each other – and be clearly conscious of the fact that we can lead a stable life only if we create, share and maintain a social system to distribute material resources fairly and better utilize cultural resources.
I strongly hope that JCA will work to ensure sharing of the sense of solidarity, led by the philosophy of common sense and citizenship based on autonomy, rights, responsibility and participation.
<Born in 1946 in Shizuoka Prefecture, Yuichiro Nakagawa earned a master’s degree in Meiji University and has served as professor at the university’s school of political science and economics.>