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About us Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences Research Sustainable Society @GMW

Sustainable cooperation

“Cooperation is sustainable if the end it serves and the means that are used to bring it about are not self-defeating: also, it must be resilient to external shocks”

Some cooperation arrangements are exceptionally stable and productive. Whereas others seems to fail, going into gradual decline or coming to an abrupt end. Society’s core institutions – families, communities, organizations / institutions and states - are all confronted with this puzzling challenge. Why is it that in some settings we observe such enduring virtuous cycles of collective good production, where the joint production of collective goods constantly reinforces participants’ willingness to contribute. Whereas other cooperative arrangements end in self-defeating vicious cycles of mutual distrust, cheating, and indifference towards the collective good? These two questions define what we will call the puzzle of sustainable cooperation.

Sustainable cooperation is not always “good” from a moral or ethical point of view – after all, criminal organizations can maintain highly sustainable cooperative arrangements as well. Yet, for those many situations in which sustainable cooperation is desired, it is important to know the conditions under which sustainability can be achieved or is endangered.

Harmony and conflict seems to come in a certain sequence. Voices arise that the current (democratic) political systems and the current economic system have reached it maximum. At the same time there is dynamic development from society itself, cooperative movements, mass movements, protests, sharing and helping communities next to and most of the times without the help of the fixed formal structures. We are interested in these developments. Do these arrangements still fulfill the needs of the current and future societies? Is there a need for redesign of the current cooperation arrangements? What can be the role of smart norms? What new forms of governance can arise?

Contact person: Rafael Wittek

SCOOP Sustainable cooperation - Roadmaps to a Resilient Society

Last modified:24 February 2020 1.10 p.m.