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This chapter offers a historical survey of the four main co-op sectors such as agro-industry, retail trade, banking and insurance, discussing the comparative advantage of the cooperative form of enterprise in each sector and the different organizational forms developed. Cooperatives in agro-industry are by far the most numerous in the world, from the most advanced economies to the developing ones. When cooperative enterprises started to become better organized by the middle of the nineteenth century, only rural credit banks were developed in the agricultural sector, while cooperatives for land cultivation and, above all, food processing started to spread toward the end of the century. The chapter considers the missing sector and includes a few examples of successful industrial cooperatives which suggest that the conditions for success of cooperation in industry have been indeed quite exceptional during the second Industrial Revolution.
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