Industrial-Strength Distributism

Some critics charge that Distributism is only suitable for small-scale and primitive economies, or "back-to-the-farm" movements. It is quite true that Distributists would like to see more small-scale and distributed production, including farm production. However, it has been known for quite some time now that Distributism works on large manufacturing, financial, and distribution firms. In fact, one of the advantages of Distributism is it "scalability." It works on both the small scale and the large.

The final proof of this is actual, large-scale firms built on Distributist principles, which are far more common than is generally known. But the grand-daddy of them all is the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation of Spain, an industrial complex of worker-owners inspired by the Basque priest, Fr. Jose Arrizmendiarieta. Rich Aleman brought this film to my attention, a film which gives an overview of the Mondragon operations. Here it is, in two parts:


Bsdouglass Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 8:25:00 PM CDT  

I love using Mondragon as an example against those who say distributism is outdated and useless. While in Spain, I had the pleasure of supporting them by shopping at Eroski supermarkets. They also have travel agents and gas stations. Very good shopping.

Viking Friday, July 25, 2008 at 10:41:00 AM CDT  

I have a simple question: to what extent is Mondragon Spanish and to what extent Basque, does anyone know? I'm wondering, if mainly the latter, if there might be cultural predispositions that might make it difficult to duplicate elsewhere.


Bsdouglass Monday, July 28, 2008 at 6:59:00 AM CDT  

Well, I've seen them in and around Madrid and in Cordoba, so that's pretty far from the Bosque Country (never been that far North in Spain myself). Not sure organizationally, though, how "Bosque" they are.

Richard Aleman Monday, July 28, 2008 at 12:30:00 PM CDT  

I can answer that question. First and foremost, while the Basque, as well as the Catalan, have separate identities from the Andalusian or Castilian cultures and language, the identity of the Basque as a culture does not thus make it so distinct from the others as to make Mondragon uniquely successful.

Quite honestly, Fr. Arizmendiarrieta had a good idea of boosting the Basque economy and few imitated this in Spain, generally.

What one could argue, is that due to the lackluster economy in the Basque region (versus the Galician fishery market, or the Valencian agricultural one), that they had to think up a way to remain competitive against the economic powerhouses of Madrid and Barcelona.

The answer is probably more complex than I have room for, but in my opinion, a cooperative of this sort could work in Barcelona (Catalunya in general) or in Seville. One example of the cooperative is the nearby Confcooperative in Emilia-Romagna (Bologna, Italy) that is proving to be another prime cooperative structure in Europe.

John Médaille Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 10:58:00 AM CDT  

Viking, I think the cultural element is important. The Basques are a unified community and have resisted rulers and invaders and maintained their rather strange language for millenia. They have resisted the Celts, the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Goths, the Moors, the Spanish, the Fascists, and the French.

Belloc noted the cultural problems with implementing Distributism in The Restoration of Property. Western man has lost the sentiment for property and the independence necessary to make his own way in the world. He is losing his connection to both land and family. That being said, these things are natural to man; property is proper to man, and family is his origin. The cultural problems can be overcome, and especially now when the current system is on the verge of collapse.

Viking Friday, August 1, 2008 at 10:55:00 PM CDT  

Hi all,

Thanks to all three of you who answered my question. Btw, BS Douglas, it's "Basque" with an "a", not an "o". Or actually, it's "Euskara" or some such variation which they call themselves, much like "Deutsch", "Espanol", and "Francais" for whom we call the Germans, Spanish, and French, respectively. (I don't know how to put that little superscript over the "n" in the second, nor the subscript below the "c" in the last.) But I'm encouraged by the fact that you're all convinced that any cultural impediments to duplicating it elsewhere can be overcome.

Warning: The following has a dubious, if any relevance to distributism. But some may find it interesting, so I included it here.

John, I've looked at Basque or Euskara a bit (before this discussion), and I'm not sure it's really strange, just different from our perspective. I've been taking Japanese language lessons just for fun, and it's striking how much the two languages have in common, tho they're apparently unrelated. Principally, they share (1) the sentence or clause structure of SOV (subject-object-verb) as opposed to our SVO. Thus, "John (the) ball threw" rather than "John threw the ball". There was an article and subsequent letters in "The Atlantic Monthly" a few years back which stated that the verb last order was actually the most common among languages worldwide. The second feature common to Euskara and Nihongo (Japanese in that language) is the use of "postpositions" as opposed to our "prepositions", that is, such words come after the noun rather than before. Thus, "nine from five to" rather than our way. The general term for these parts of speech, incidentally, is "adpositions", which also include the much rarer "circumposition", which are on both sides of the noun, as suggested by the name. Not shared with Nihongo is Euskara's highly complicated grammar, featuring numerous endings for words to indicate case and tense. But this it shares with classical Greek and Latin as well as such as modern Russian.

Euskara is a language isolate, meaning it has no (certainly) known linguistic relatives. Apparently the best guess among experts who've looked into the matter is that it's distantly related to the Caucasian languages of the (surprise!) Caucasus mountain area, between the Black and Caspian Seas. I myself found something interesting, seemingly linking Euskara to the Turkic languages: the words for "mother" and "father" are nearly identical. Euskara's "mother" is "ama", which compares with the "ana" that 6 of 10 of the Turkic languages listed in a graph gave. (There was one language that had two words for the female parent.) "Father" was even more telling, with Euskara's "aita" comparing nicely with "ata", in 8 of the 10. Given the distances of the language's present homes, and the universality of the need for the two words, this must mean something, tho I'm not sure just what.


Bryce Wesley Merkl Wednesday, July 22, 2009 at 2:59:00 PM CDT  

For those interested in finding out more on Euskara/Basque, be sure to check out its Wiki Browser: Euskara wiki browser

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