The New Yorker's The New Guilded Age provides an excellent historical overview of guilds and their potential return. Key quote:
From roughly the turn of the first millennium to the French Revolution, guilds operated as associations of independent craftspeople, setting standards for their lines of work and cultivating lively subcultures around their labor.
The article focuses on Prime Produce, a New York city coworking collective. Instead of being owned and operated by a company, Prime Produce will be owned by the members. Again from the article:
Prime Produce is exploring a model in which many members will be co-owners of a cooperative firm, which will manage the proceeds of their dues and pay rent to the sympathetic investors who own the buildings.
We first got interested in guilds way back in 2007 when we were doing research for the Intuit 2020 New Artisan Economy report. Based on this work, guilds seemed like a logical way for new artisans to organize.
And the growing interest in co-ops and other forms of collective ownership is clearly leading to increasing numbers of guild-like organizations, with Prime Produce being a good example.
We're also seeing a rise in the number of "loosely-coupled" groups of independent workers who team up to work together in a guild like way. Key quote from the 2015 MBO Partners State of Independence report:
In 2015 36% of independent workers reported spending about $101 billion in the past year hiring other independent workers on a contract basis ... This is roughly the equivalent of employing 2.4 million full-time workers via traditional hiring.
Independents’ hiring of other Independents is part of a broader collaboration trend in the new economy. In essence, Independents team up with other Independents to pool their talents and address more complex challenges in the marketplace … These teams effectively constitute a new form of project-specific small business that operates with a flexible and agile staffing model.
These loosely coupled groups of workers look in many ways like the guilds of yore. We continue to think guild like organizations make a lot of sense in the new economy. We expect to see more of them.