Podcast: Cooperative Islands Within a Sea of Capitalism

Imagine a vast sea—a sea of global capitalism. Beneath the surface is a frightening place to be: a ruthless world filled with unyielding competition and greed. The logic of this ocean is kill or be killed. Every creature for itself. And the prophets of this underworld are immense leviathans engaged in an endless hunt. They roam the depths, ceaselessly consuming.

But above the surface, islands dot the horizon. Green, lush sanctuaries. Islands of alternatives. Movements and communities rethinking ownership, dismantling hierarchies, prioritizing cooperation and generosity, and putting people and planet before profit. The islands are there, if we know where to look for them.

In Episode 2 of this highly-acclaimed 2-part series on Worker Cooperatives, the Upstream podcast builds on the conversation started in Episode 1, which explored how co-ops can serve as a force to widen spheres of democracy within our society. Episode 2 shifts the focus outward, exploring how cooperatives navigate the tumultuous waters of global capitalism.

The episode takes a deep dive into the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, the largest network of federated cooperatives in the world. The Upstream team takes listeners on a journey through the Basque region of Spain where Mondragon is located, and explores Mondragon’s successes and challenges through candid conversations with several worker-members at Mondragon Headquarters and at various cooperatives within the federation.

After presenting an in-depth exploration of the recent and mixed history Mondragon, Upstream takes us across the Atlantic to Jackson, Mississippi, where an ambitious iniative is just getting underway. Cooperation Jackson is part of the same trans-local organizing movement that inspired Cooperation Richmond—which was featured in Episode 1. Cooperation Jackson aims to be the Mondragon of North America, and in doing so has learned many lessons that will hopefully help them to succeed in their broad economic and political vision of Black liberation and the eco-socialist transition away from capitalism.


  • Kali Akuno — Co-founder and Co-director of Cooperation Jackson
  • Gorka Espiau —Senior Fellow at the Agirre Lehendakaria Center at the University of the Basque Country
  • Sam Gindin — Writer, Director of Research at the Canadian Auto Workers (retired), Professor of Political Science at York University (retired)
  • Ander Exteberria — Cooperative Dissemination at Mondragon Corporation
  • Izaksun Ezpeleta — Worker/member at Fagor Electronics
  • Andoni — Worker/member at Fagor Ederland

Music By:

  • Chris Zabriskie
  • Will Stratton
  • Mississippi Sheiks

This is part 2 of a 2-part series. Listen to Episode 1 here.

Upstream is an interview and documentary series that invites you to unlearn everything you thought you knew about economics. Weaving together interviews, field-recordings, rich sound-design, and great music, each episode of Upstream will take you on a journey exploring a theme or story within the broad world of economics. So tune in, because the revolution will be podcasted.

For more from Upstream, subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher Radio. You can also follow Upstream on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get daily updates.

Header graphic by Phil Wrigglesworth

A version of this blog post was originally published by Shareable.

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