Co-operation: Definitions, Elements, Types and Importance!

It is a basic process of social life. Its nature is associative. Society cannot exist without co-operation. Co-operation generally means working together in the pursuit of common goals or common interests. It is a joint activity carried out for shared rewards.

It is a coordinated effort to reach mutual goals. Co-operation implies a regard for the wishes of other people. Men may also find that their selfish goals are best served by working together with their fellows. Co-operation involves sacrifice, effort, subordination of private interests and inclination to the joint ends of the community, the existence of social constraint. The tendency to co-operate seems to be fundamental. It is found in animals as mutual aid (Kropotkin and Kohler), in primitive people (Mead), in children and in civilized adults.


According to Merrill and Eldrige (1952), “co-operation is a form of social interaction wherein two or more persons work together to gain a common end”. Fairchild {Dictionary of Sociology, 1944) observes: “Co-operation is the process by which individuals or groups combine their effort, in a more or less organised way for the attainment of common objective.” Defining co-operation, Robert A. Nisbet (1974) wrote: “It is joint or collaborative behaviour toward some goal in which there is common interest.”


It may be:

(1) spontaneous/directed (planned as in bureaucracy)

(2) voluntary/involuntary

(3) contractual/traditional (joint family)


(4) large/small in scale


Following are the main elements of co-operation:

(1) Two and more than two persons.

(2) Common end or goal.


(3) Joint activity.

(4) Conscious effort.

(5) Restrain over ego-centered drives.


Co-operation may be personal or impersonal, and direct or indirect, in character. There are many modes of co-operation in social life.


Its principal types are:

(i) Deliberate primary group co-operation, and

(ii) Indirect secondary group co-operation.

Deliberate primary group co-operation:


Co-operation by members of small groups (family, recreation groups, work associates) is very common in our society. The nature of this type of co-operation is personal and direct. Playing together, worshipping together, tilling the fields together are the instances of direct personal co-operation. In the direct co-operation individuals do like things together.

Indirect secondary group co-operation:

This type of co-operation is found in the secondary groups such as large organisations, industry, government, trade unions etc., consumer and producer co-operation are its good example. The nature of such co-operation is generally indirect and impersonal. This type of co-operation is based on the renowned principal of division of labour and specialisation.

In such activities people do unlike tasks for fulfilling a common goal/end. Indirect co-operation is the main characteristic of modem society. The individual of modem indus­trialised society increasingly separated from face-to-face direct co-operation.


“Society is co-operation crossed by conflict”. These words of MacIver and Page (1956) clearly highlight the importance of co-operation in society. The authors have equated society with co-operation but at the same time they have not ignored the incidence of conflict which takes place from time to time in society.


All progress of mankind is attributed to the co-operative efforts in various fields but conflict is also necessary for the upliftment of society lest the people may become inert and life becomes inactive and eventless. Co-operation is a universal phenomenon found since birth to death.

Rearing, caring and protection of the child is not possible without the help and co-operation of mother or any other person. Even on death some persons are required to carry the dead body to the cremation ground. All social groups—from the smaller family to the large international organisations—are based on the co-operation of their members.