Democratising Secondary Associations

Stephen Elstub

in Towards a Deliberative and Associational Democracy

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2008 | ISBN: 9780748627394
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652716 | DOI:
Democratising Secondary Associations

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This chapter reinforces claims that in order to fulfil its potential democratic functions, associations in an associational democracy must themselves be internally democratic. It defends the desirability of this against two claims: that where costs of exit are low, the internal structure of the association is irrelevant; and that where applying external standards to the internal working of secondary associations would undermine the essential liberal democratic right to freedom of association. The chapter also defends the possibility of all associations achieving internal democracy against Michels’s ‘iron law of oligarchy’, citizens’ reluctance to participate and the empirical restrictions of size, geographic dispersion and time that makes associational democratisation challenging. Finally, it explores how the state and civil society could change associations to make them democratic through regulation.

Keywords: democratic functions; internal democracy; oligarchy; associational democratisation; civil society

Chapter.  15460 words. 

Subjects: Politics

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