Associations and Democracy
Associations and Democracy by Joshua Cohen and Joel Rogers, Verso 1995
With contributions from Paul Q. Hirst, Ellen Immergut, Ira Katznelson, Heinz Klug, Andrew Levine, Jane Mansbridge, Claus Offe, Philippe Schmitter, Wolfgang Streeck, Andrew Szasz and Iris Young. Edited and introduced by Erik Olin Wright.
Throughout the West, democracy is under fire. “Government is part of the problem, not the solution” is a common refrain. As the tasks of the state become more complex and the size of polities larger, the institutional forms of liberal democracy developed in the 19th century seem increasingly unable to cope. Rather than seeking to deepen the democratic character of politics, much energy in recent years has been directed as reducing the role of politics altogether. In Associations and Democracy, Joshua Cohen and Joel Rogers advance an innovative scheme for rejuvenating the democratic state. Their proposal involves the strengthening of secondary associations, organizations like unions, works councils, neighborhood associations, parent-teacher groups and women’s societies. With enlivened secondary associations mediating between individual citizens and the state, active participation in the political process can be expanded and democracy enhanced. Such an approach raises a number of thorny issues: Can such associations retain their independence from government if they are pulled further into the political sphere? Will a shift from territorial to functional representation further fragment an already divided polity? In an array of original contributions, leading social scientists respond to Cohen and Rogers with questions like these; Cohen and Rogers, in turn, sum up the debate. The first of a series of polemics providing workable scenarios for a progressive future, Associations and Democracy is a lively and stimulating exploration of one of the central issues on today’s political agenda.