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The potential of co-operative working within the farming sector has received increasing interest in recent years, given a range of potential benefits. However, uncertainty persists in understanding the balance between individual and collective priority, how members inter-relate and negotiate these different motivations over time, and how this connects to different forms of outcome. This paper evaluates the experiences of the Pontbren farmer co-operative in Mid-Wales (UK) to explore these issues, as an exemplar of the multiple and sometimes unexpected outcomes of co-operative activity. Here-in day-to-day practices and emotional affects are highlighted as critical elements of co-operation alongside the skills and know-how required to sustain working relations. In addition, the farmers’ changing sense of self is considered to evaluate the extent to which co-operation can bring about new forms of identification. The approach outlined aims to augment existing Bourdieu-inspired readings of social learning and capital exchange with insights from the literature on social practice and diverse economies (following the work of Elizabeth Shove, J.K. Gibson-Graham and colleagues). Overall, findings demonstrate a need to frame co-operation as an emergent process which can move the individuals involved beyond preformed judgements and measures of social positioning, altering their conceptions of how to relate to others. Moreover, it is argued that the value of this relatedness needs to be understood in more expansive terms, and not only as calculable forms of ‘capital’.


  • Social Practice; Affect; Social Capital; Identity; Diverse Economies
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-268
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Early online date28 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017
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