1. Merrill and Eldredge:
‘Cooperation is a form of social interaction wherein two or more persons work together to gain a common end.’
2. A. W. Green:
‘Cooperation is the continuous and common endeavour of two or more persons to perform a task or to reach a goal that is commonly cherished.’
‘Cooperation is the process by which the individuals or groups combine their effort, in a more or less organised way for the attainment of common objective.’
Thus, cooperation is mutual working together for the attainment of a common goal. It implies a regard for the wishes, needs and aspirations of other people. It is often considered to be unselfish. But men may also find that their selfish goals are best served by working together with their fellows.
Cooperation may be found in groups as small as the dyad [group of two persons – Ex: husband and wife] and as large as the modern countries. People may cooperate for self-centered gain or for self- protection, or to do good to others. Groups may cooperate for self-advancement as in the case of a monopoly, for mutual protection, or for the welfare of all groups.
Cooperation requires sympathy and identification. We cannot have cooperation without the development of sympathy. Sympathy depends upon the capacity of an individual to imagine himself in the place of another, particularly when the other person is in difficulties.
Mutual aid is another name for cooperation. Cooperation is possible only when there is like mindedness, similarity of purpose, mutual awareness, mutual understanding, mutual helpfulness and selfless attitude.
Types of Cooperation:
Cooperation may be direct, or indirect, or it may be primary, secondary and tertiary in character.
1. Direct Cooperation:
Here, the individuals involved do the identical function. Ex.: Playing together, worshipping together, tilling the field together, taking out a cart from the mud, etc. People do work in company with other members. Performance of a common task with joint efforts brings them social satisfaction.
2. Indirect Cooperation:
In this case, people work individually for the attainment of a common end. People here do unlike tasks towards a similar end. This is based on the principle of division of labour and specialisation.
For example, farmers, spinners, weavers, dyers, tailors are different people engaged in different activities. But their end remains the same that of producing clothes. The modern technological age requires specialisation of skills and functions. Hence it depends on cooperation.
3. Primary Cooperation:
Primary cooperation is found in primary groups such as family, neighbourhood, friends’ group, children’s play group and so on. Here there is an identity of ends. Every member works for the betterment of all. There is an interlocking identification of individuals, groups, and the task performed.
The group contains all or nearly all, of each individual’s life. The rewards for which everyone works are shared, or meant to be shared, with every other member in the group. Means and goals become one, for cooperation itself is a highly prized value.
4. Secondary Cooperation:
Secondary cooperation is the characteristic feature of the modern civilised society and is found mainly in secondary groups. It is highly formalised and specialised. Cooperation is not itself a value; attitudes are more likely to be individualistic and calculating.
Most members of the group feel some loyalty toward the group, but the welfare of the group is not their first consideration. Each performs his task, and thus helps others to perform their tasks, so that he can separately enjoy the fruits of his cooperation.
Each may work in cooperation with others for his own wages, salaries, promotions, profits and in some cases power and prestige. Such kind of Co-operation may be witnessed in political, economic, religious, commercial, educational and other groups.
5. Tertiary Cooperation:
Cooperation may be found between bigger groups also. It may be found between two or more political parties, castes, tribes, religious groups and so on. It is often called accommodation. The two groups may cooperate and work together for antagonistic goals.
Two political parties may work together in an attempt to defeat a third party. Still, one party may intend to seize power while the other to get sufficient public support. Similarly, the labour and management may work together for different ends.
Cooperation as a form of social process is universal and continuous. It has made our social life possible and livable. It surrounds us on all sides. It is both a psychological and a biological necessity and a social condition of man’s continued existence.
As MacIver and Page say, “Man cannot associate without cooperating, without working together in the pursuit of like or common interests”. C.H. Cooley says that cooperation arises only when men realise that they have a common interest. They cooperate because they have sufficient time, intelligence and self-control to seek this interest through united action.
Cooperation takes place under some conditions. As Young and Mack have said, cooperation requires first of all a motivation to seek a goal. Secondly, people must have some knowledge of the benefit of cooperative activity.
This requires some kind of education, for cooperation is not an inborn tendency. Thirdly, people must have a favourable attitude towards sharing both the work and the rewards involved. Finally, they need to equip themselves with the skills necessary to make the cooperative plan work.
Cooperation is so important in the life of an individual that according to Prince Kropotkin it is difficult for man to survive without it. He calls it mutual aid. In rearing of progeny and in the provision of protection and food cooperation is inevitable.
The continuation of the human race requires the cooperation of male and female for reproduction and upbringing of children. Cooperation has its origin in the biological level. The principle of struggle for existence and survival is essentially the principle of cooperation.
Cooperation helps society to progress:
Progress can better be achieved through united action. Progress in science and technology, agriculture and industry, transport and communication, etc., would not have been possible without cooperation. Persons who cooperate may generate unbounded enthusiam.
It is the main spring of our collective life. It gives strength in union. It builds, it conserves. In democratic countries, cooperation has become a necessary condition of people’s collective life and activities. The growth of the role of cooperation is seen in the increase in the size of communities.
Cooperation is an urgent need of the present-day world:
It is needed not only among the individuals, associations, groups and communities but also among the nations. It provides solution for many international problems and disputes. Since interdependence is widespread in all walks of life, cooperation is all the more needed. Society advances through cooperation and declines in its absence.