Italian Center for Documentation on Cooperation and Social Economy | Virtual museum - The economic miracle

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The economic miracle

Riding on the wave of the economic success of the 1950’s and 1960’s, the cooperative movement developed both in terms of numbers and quality. Almost all sectors passed from the post-war structure of small artisan-based shops, characterized by improvisation, to significantly more modern and structured firms.
In the agricultural sector, cooperatives gradually moved from a model of self-organization among dayly-labourers, typical of the socialist approach, to a more multifaceted model composed of greater interaction among different enterprises: alongside the typical land-cultivating cooperatives food processing cooperatives multiplied as well as service coops.
The consumer sector was one of the first to overcome the classical territorial fractioning beginning to form alliances. In the 1960’s the distribution network was updated with the introduction of sales outlets such as supermarkets gradually replacing small shops. Furthermore, alongside the usual consumer associations, there emerged cooperatives which grouped together shopkeepers. In the workers’ cooperatives there was an increase in the presence of cooperatives in the traditionally capitalist sectors, particularly in manufacturing and services.
The construction cooperatives, in their turn, consolidated their positions, proceeding in some cases to establish consortia aimed at procuring a greater bulk of contracts.
In the credit sector, the rural cooperative banks reorganized themselves, giving rise, in 1950, to Federcasse, and benefiting from legislative reforms that allowed them to expand their operations. In the insurance sector cooperatives overcame the obstacles which had previously limited them to remaining small agricultural mutual societies or friendly societies, and strengthened their presence with the establishment of Unipol (1963).
Thus, during the years of the ‘Italian miracle’, the cooperative movement gave rise to a business culture and an awareness of its own potential, which pushed it to compete successfully in the market. Although economic success was greater in the following decades, when the movement showed how dynamic it was and capable of meeting the recession, in the 1950’s and 1960’s the cooperative movement became firmly rooted in the social environment.
The creation of horizontal and vertical structures, for the purposes of better representation and management, indicates how far the movement was able to adapt to international changes and to establish its position as an player in the Italian market.
Further reading:
I. Bianco. Il movimento cooperativo italiano, storia e ruolo dell’economia nazionale, Milano, 1975.

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