Inequality and Conflict as Drivers of Cooperation: The Location of Wine Cooperatives in pre-1936 Spain

Abstract: As it is usually believed that cooperatives made a great contribution to the modernisation of agriculture and when they began to spread agriculture still had a great weight in European economies, it is of interest to know why agricultural cooperatives had uneven success, both from one crop to another and between and within countries. In this article, I focus on the intriguing case of wine, a product of great importance to Mediterranean Europe. After defending that, in actual fact, wine cooperatives were generally unable to offer members important economic advantages; I argue that they only flourished where some ‘local’ factor increased the attraction of belonging to them and, in addition, it was possible to finance their construction. I use what happened in France as a reference and show that in Spain both circumstances only converged in (a part of) Catalonia, as a paradoxical result of inequality and the social conflicts caused by a sharecropping contract called rabassa morta.