Past and Present Futures of Democracy: The Danish Peasants’ Movement as Democracy Instigator and Cultural Mythologizer

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This chapter investigates state-society-relations from the point of view of democracy. It presumes that a pluralist, self-organized civil society constitutes a vital democratic source while also involving a double democratic dilemma: The more powerful and state-independent, the greater this source, but also the greater risk of overall national disintegration; and conversely: The more intense the interplay between state and civil society, the greater the chances of mutual fertilization, but also the greater risk of one part drowning out the other. The chapter focuses on the Danish peasants’ movement, the history of which illustrates this dilemma paradigmatically. A movement of outcasts developed into a powerful society of its own; national disintegration would appear to constitute an imminent danger. Yet, as the chapter argues, by establishing new associational, democratic forms and a conception of “the people” ripe with flexible mythological elements, capable of spreading to political competitors, the movement ultimately became the foundation of overall national integration. This development raises the question: What lessons may we draw today from the peasants’ movement’s historical success? Lessons of intricate relations between centralizing and decentralizing developments? Or, perhaps more controversially: lessons of linkages between democracy and cultural mythologization?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCivil Society : Between Concepts and Empirical Grounds
EditorsLiv Egholm, Lars Bo Kaspersen
Number of pages17
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Publication date2021
ISBN (Print)9780367340957
ISBN (Electronic)9780429323881
Publication statusPublished - 2021
SeriesRoutledge Advances In Sociology

Bibliographical note

Published November 30, 2020.

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