The development of U.S. cooperative organizations is rooted in the upheavals that characterized the Industrial Revolution in England during 1750-1850. During this period many small, home-based enterprises disappeared, forcing workers to move to cities where they faced harsh working conditions and low wages. In rural areas, the enclosure movement and changes in land tenure patterns drove many small farmers off their lands into towns and cities looking for work. Building on trade and social guild traditions, mutual aid and “friendly society” organizations sprang up to address the conditions of the times and contributed to the development of cooperative business ideas. Robert Owen (1771- 1858) and Charles Fourier (1772-1837), searching for paths to a more harmonious, utopian society, articulated arguments that provided a broader rationale for cooperative organizations.
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