The understanding of associational life in western societies is primarily concerned with the former being as an indicator of healthy democratic institutions. The western liberal theory treats associationalism as something that exists in its own right, has a sphere of its own, and independent of and beyond the control of the state. Associations provide a sense of rootedness to the atomised individuals. The theory would treat associational engagements as capable of providing public goods. Associations, in their collective capacities, mediate between the state institutions and citizens. By articulating and aggregating citizens’ demands in an effective manner, associations are responsible for making the state responsive to the citizens’ demands. However, associations may even give rise to anti- and non-democratic attitudes. People who may not like complex and formalised decision-making procedures could foster negative political feelings. In the background of some of the diverse views like this, the paper is an endeavour to look at, critically, some of the contemporary theoretical debates on democracy and associationalism.
Associations, democracy, Putnam, Liberalism, Tocqueville