The Uralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society (ULCCS) in northern Kerala is a remarkable institution, founded as part of the early 20th century anti-caste movement. The Cooperative's raison d'être – as enshrined in its bylaws – is to 'promote the economic interests of the labourers of the Society'. Despite ups and downs over its 90-year history, the ULCCS is a highly successful cooperative, both in terms of its profitability and in its enhancing the lives of its worker-owners. This, despite the neoliberal policies that have suffocated much economic activity that lies outside of monopoly capitalism's interests.
Building Alternatives provides an honest appraisal of a heroic venture of a cooperative enterprise, demonstrating that cooperatives are not only able to survive in a small niche, but are able to grow into substantial institutions within the social life of a region. The book does not gloss over the problems that come with this history, providing a rich empirical account that helps us learn from the challenges and successes. The story of ULCCS is not merely an inspiration to the world, but a guidebook to the resilience of cooperatives as alternatives within capitalism.
The book is a rigorous study, well narrated. The language used is accessible to all readers. It is a product of excellent research that makes judicious use of quantitative and qualitative research methods. Rich archival resources, in-depth interviews with workers and leaders of the ULCCS, a sample survey among existing workers, and detailed analyses of the minutes of board meetings, general body meetings, and other official documents of the ULCCS are used with proficiency to narrate the story of India's oldest construction workers' cooperative. The book is, undoubtedly, a meaningful addition to the existing literature on cooperatives.
Sampath V. Sambasivan, Review of Agrarian Studies
The authors of the volume deserve special thanks for providing a detailed account of a pioneering and successful organisation that needs to be replicated in large numbers.
C.T. Kurien, Frontline