Associationalism Strikes Back!

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


Approximately 150 years ago sociological thinking related to the idea of associative democracy loomed large in countries such as Britain, France, Germany, and Denmark. Denmark was not in front when it came to big 'theorists' of associative democracy but it was probably among the leading countries when it came to the development of associational structures and associative democracy. From the late 1860s, as a reaction to the defeat to the Prussians, a strong wave of voluntary associations emerged and many of these lay the foundation of the Danish welfare state. Since it developed into a top-down social democratic welfare state based upon universalistic rights financed by the tax payer. In
recent years the social democratic welfare state has run into problems. The Left as well as the Right claim it is clientalistic, bureaucratic, produce free riders, non-democratic and impossible to control financially. The criticism and the fact that the welfare state now exists in a completely new geo-political and geo-economic situation have pushed the Danish welfare state into a transformation process. Several politicians, parties, and many different organizations brings voluntary association into the debate and many argue that associationalism is the answer to the problems. We see how Denmark is revitalizng old ideas about associative democracy but also new ideas have arriveds (Hirst, 1994; Cohen and Rogers). Similar to the late 19th century Denmark has become the experimentarium of associational practice. The paper finishes with some reflections on these ongoing processes. Will it be the savior of the welfare state?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBook of Abstracts : Nordic Sociological Conference 2018
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationAalborg
PublisherAalborg Universitet
Publication date2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event29th Nordic Sociological Association Conference. NSA 2018 - Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark
Duration: 8 Aug 201810 Aug 2018
Conference number: 29


Conference29th Nordic Sociological Association Conference. NSA 2018
LocationAalborg University
Internet address


  • Management
  • Voluntary social care
  • Authentic relationships

Cite this