Dr Ryan Foley

ryan foley web


Postdoctoral Affiliate

Ryan’s doctoral thesis (‘It’s need not greed’: Values at work in an Italian social cooperative; Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford; 2018) explores the role of meeting members’ needs as the core organizing principle for decision-making and justification of action in the practices of social cooperative management. This ethnographic research, based in and around Bologna from September 2013-2014, centres around two social cooperatives and the surrounding local network of government agencies and social enterprises.

Working towards shared needs (bisogni) is described as a primary point of difference versus for-profit enterprise, and the need to provide work for members emerges as the core value, or ‘desirable outcome’ for most managers of the work-inclusion cooperatives studied. However, this instrumentalisation of the concept of ‘need’ also naturalises certain aspects of capitalist practice, with consequences for the enactment of other cooperative values such as democracy, equality, and solidarity. The thesis also explores themes of precarity, network power, labour value, and ethical consumption.

She is presently working on papers that explore some of the specific tensions that arise between cooperative values and the need to protect member employment.


Book chapter: ‘Marketing critical consumption: cultivating conscious consumers or nurturing an alternative food network on Facebook?’ in Tanja Schneider, Karin Eli, Catherine Dolan, Stanley Ulijaszek (eds.) Digital Food Activism. Routledge, 2018.

Paper: ‘A new generation of challenges: Seeking independence on an Oxford estate’ JASO-online New Series, Volume IV, no. 1, 2012.