ABSTRACT: What is a cooperative? Is it a form of vertical integration, an independent organization or an intermediate form of governance between the market and the hierarchy? This paper contributes to the economic theory of the cooperative organization by examining it from a comparative economic perspective. Departing from Williamson's one-dimensional continuum of governance structures, the paper adopts the view that governance structures exhibit multiple dimensions and true hybrids are market-like on some of these dimensions while hierarchy-like on others. I show that the cooperative blends market-like attributes with hierarchy-like mechanisms and thus should be viewed as a true hybrid rather than as an intermediate form. The paper concludes with a discussion about the usefulness of this approach and potential avenues for future research.