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In this chapter, I contrast Harper’s pragmatic co-operative vision with the British co-operative traditions that accompanied migrants to Western Australia as intellectual baggage. It is argued that the British co-operative traditions were predominantly developed to overcome the inequities of the industrial age in the Old World, whereas Harper’s co-operative system was predominantly designed to achieve the pragmatic goal of overcoming frontier problems faced by settlers in the New World. It is also argued that the British co-operative traditions were mainly used by Western Australian co-operative leaders to induce idealistic settlers, who had been exposed to these traditions, to join settler co-operatives that had far more pragmatic goals. Finally, it is argued that the British co-operative traditions are more varied than is conveyed in the secondary literature devoted to Australian co-operation, with the authors of these tracts usually making isolated references to particular co-operators, such as the Rochdale Pioneers. A richer account is given here by considering four key British co-operative traditions: Robert Owen’s utopian co-operation, J.M. Ludlow’s Christian socialism, J.S. Mill’s liberal socialism and J.T.W. Mitchell’s consumer co-operation. The main conclusion is that these traditions mutated once they were transplanted to the frontier environment and, to a large extent, were merely drawn upon in rhetorical fashion to justify policies that were already being pursued.
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- Visions of English Co-operation in the Victorian Age: Western Australia’s Intellectual Inheritance
David J. Gilchrist
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