Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 158, Issue 3, pp 617–635 | Cite as

“It’s Us, You Know, There’s a Feeling of Community”: Exploring Notions of Community in a Consumer Co-operative

  • Victoria WellsEmail author
  • Nick Ellis
  • Richard Slack
  • Mona Moufahim
Original Paper


The notion of community infers unity and a source of moral obligations in an organisational ethic between individuals or groups. As such, a community, having a strong sense of collective identity, may foster collective action to promote social change for the betterment of society. This research critically explores notions of community through analysing discursive identity construction practices within a member-owned urban consumer co-operative (CC) public house in the UK. A strong sense of community is an often-claimed CC characteristic. The paper’s main contributions stem from using the lens of identity work to critically unpack the notion of community through highlighting paradoxical tensions of community residing within CCs. The findings reveal that the notion of community may be illusionary with counter-veiling forces, one that reflects a more traditional sense of connection, attachment and communion, and the other of boundaries, disconnection or division. As these repertoires collide, tensions are evident between the hegemonic discourse of neoliberal managerialism and that of democratic collective ownership. Despite these individual-level tensions, communities may operate within boundaries enabling an organisational and societal ethic, beyond the individual.


Consumer co-operative Community Identity Symbolic boundaries Tensions Discourse analysis Public house 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Victoria Wells, after data collection had been completed, became a member of the co-operative board but no longer holds this position. Nick Ellis declares that he has no conflict of interest. Richard Slack declares he has no conflict of interest. Mona Moufahim declares she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victoria Wells
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nick Ellis
    • 2
  • Richard Slack
    • 2
  • Mona Moufahim
    • 2
  1. 1.The York Management SchoolYork UniversityYorkUK
  2. 2.Durham University Business SchoolDurham UniversityDurhamUK

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