Abstract: A Market for Doing Good: Narratives of the Market in the History of a Danish Consumer Cooperative

Kristoffer Jensen and Ellen M. Korsager


Economists, ethnographers, and historians alike have noted that the cooperative as a form of business is an inherent paradox between ideas of the common good and the logic of the market. Earlier studies in business history have shown how the identity of a cooperative may be closely linked to narratives of the common good and moral and national spirit. Yet even though many cooperatives have lived through many different market situations throughout their often quite long histories, we know little about how the cooperative perceives itself as an actor in a competitive market. The object of this article is to discuss how the Danish consumer cooperative FDB/Coop constructs itself as an actor in the market. Our analysis shows that from the late 19th century until today, FDB/Coop has continuously used and circulated a narrative about its own unique role in shaping the market. The narrative has changed with the political and economic context of FDB/Coop over time. Yet the point has remained the same—namely, to explain why it is both reasonable and appropriate that a benevolent organization would also be an actor in the market.