Cooperatives (Genossenschaften) are associations basically serving the promotion of the economic and entrepreneurial activities of their members (§ 1 Genossenschafts-Gesetz 1873 in the 1974 version). This special task is the distinguishing feature between cooperatives and (mere) companies limited by shares. The originally required limitation of commercial transactions to members was abolished in 1974. From 1851 the British "Rochedale Pioneers" inspired Austrians to establish co-operatives: as workers´ associations ("Konsum-Genossenschaften", consumer co-operatives), according to the Schulze-Delitzsch system ( Gewerbliche Genossenschaften, i.e. industrial co-operatives), or according to the Raiffeisen system ( agricultural co-operatives consumer co-operations and financial organisations). Later housing co-operatives were founded. Co-operatives are subject to auditing associations. The Raiffeisen co-operative in particular has acquired a dominant position on the financial and agricultural sector and the co-operatives are nowadays characterised by a concentration process caused by the general economic development on the one hand and by the difficulties encountered in raising large amounts of money on the other.
Literature#M. Patera (ed.), Handbuch des oesterreichischen Genossenschaftswesens, 1986.