Reference Work Entry

International Encyclopedia of Civil Society

pp 47-53

Associative Democracy

  • Nicola JonesAffiliated withOverseas Development Institute
  • , Hannah MarsdenAffiliated withOverseas Development Institute


Given growing concern about the state of democracy and governance more broadly in the developed as well as developing worlds, revisiting different schools of thought on democratic models is of critical contemporary importance. Associative democracy – referring to a model of democracy where power is highly decentralized and responsibility for civic well-being resides with like-minded civic associations – is one such model. On the one hand, the model has specific sociocultural roots in early twentieth century Britain (Cole, 1930, in Hirst, 1989), and again in efforts under the New Labour Government (1997–) to recraft the relationship between citizens and the state in the management of new welfare architecture (Lister, 2005). On the other hand, however, associative democracy, with its focus on combating growing individualism and fears about the unbridled power of the state, clearly has wider relevance for thinking about the role of civil society in an international ...

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