Sociological Aspects of the Peasants?Cooperatives in Southeastern Europe: Serbia and Roumania Compared
Srdan Šljukic

        It would be very difficult to challenge the claim that says that the modern societies possess stronger ability of adaptation than all the other societies (Parsons, 1992: 9). The power, which the modern societies are able to express both inside themselves (through control and development of the resources available) and to their surroundings (i.e. other existing societies), has been mainly rooted in the extremely high degree of their social integration, based on highly developed division of labor. This integration has been achieved by certain institutions and in all three spheres of social activity: economical, political and cultural. In economy, the main integrative mechanism has been the market; in politics, it is the principle of citizenship; in the sphere of culture, very general and stable value system is crucial. A specific social structure (in its vertical dimension), with the absence of sharp lines between social strata and the presence of intensive social mobility, is also an important characteristic of the modern societies. Furthermore, it is not disputable that all modern societies are of Western origin. However, it is also true that their traits can be (and have been) successfully copied and implemented in most of the other societies.

            In spite of the huge migrations from rural to urban areas and the overwhelming influence of the urban way of life in villages, it cannot be said that there are no rural ? urban differences in the modern societies and that agriculture is not important any more. It must be pointed out that the agriculture of these societies allows them, apart from satisfying domestic needs, to export a very large quantity of food products, which appears to be a powerful lever of the world domination. One of the institutions that contributed to this situation has been, by all means, an agricultural (farmers?, peasants?) cooperative.

            In the USA farmers? cooperatives are ?(?) the key component of rural economies? (Thompson, 2000). According to the ICA (International Cooperative Alliance) sources, in 1993 there were 4 244 agricultural cooperatives in the USA, with more than 4 million members and the turnover of 82 billion US$. Since the early ?90s their role at the market has been growing. If we look at agricultural cooperatives in the EU now, we shall find out that the leading countries are France (turnover of nearly 74 billion of US$), Germany and the Netherlands (Cote and Carre, 1996). It should not be forgotten that in the case of the cooperatives it is not only the economy that matters: cooperatives in rural areas strengthen social solidarity and contribute to rural development.

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