Cooperative enterprises have been in existence in all fields of economic activity for around 200 years, but they have tended to bunch in some sectors. This paper will examine which sectors have the most cooperatives at a world level, attempt to sketch out a typology and enquire into the reasons for this bunching. There are essentially four cooperative forms: Users cooperatives, Producers cooperatives,Workers cooperatives, and Social or community cooperatives. While workers cooperatives have received a disproportionate amount of attention from the theoretical
literature, I argue that historically this has been the least successful type of cooperative and only recently has seen some revival in the service sector. The role of capital, management styles and intrinsic motivations will be considered to explain this historical evidence. The final section of the paper is devoted to drawing lessons from the historical material analyzed in the paper.