The Art of Association

  • Sheldon Gellar


Tocqueville maintained that civil associations—associations without political objectives—were essential to a vibrant democratic society where individuals sharing common concerns, interests, and views had the freedom to organize civil associations to make their opinions heard and to influence government policy.2 In democratic societies, civil associations engaged in a myriad of religious, moral, economic, commercial, social, cultural, intellectual, and recreational activities and provided public goods and services outside the realm of the state. By instilling in their members habits of cooperation, solidarity, and concern for the public interest, civil associations contributed to the effectiveness and stability of democratic government.3


Trade Union Female Genital Mutilation Voluntary Association Youth Group Rural Producer 
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Chapter Seven The Art of Association

  1. 3.
    Robert D. Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civil Traditions in Modern Italy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), pp. 89–91. Putnam built on Tocqueville’s analysis to develop his thesis that civil associations provided the foundation for democratic culture.Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    Robert L. Tignor, “Senegal’s Cooperative Experience, 1907–1960,” in John Waterbury and Mark Gersovitz (eds.), The Political Economy of Risk and Choice in Senegal (London: Frank Cass, 1987), pp. 90–122.Google Scholar
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  5. 12.
    For an excellent survey of the literature on voluntary associations in Africa during the colonial period, see Immanuel Wallerstein, “Voluntary Associations,” in James S. Coleman and Carl Rosberg, Jr. (eds.), Political Parties and National Integration in Tropical Africa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964), pp. 318–339.Google Scholar
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    These included peasant movements like the Association des Jeunes Agriculteurs de Casamance (AJAC), which was founded in 1974 by young farmers. For more on AJAC, see Daniel Descendre, L’Autodétermination Paysanne en Afrique: Solidarité ou Tutelle des O.NG. Parténaires? (Paris: Editions L’Harmattan, 1991), pp. 79–105.Google Scholar
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    See Robert Putnam’s chapter on the Progressive Era in Bowling Alone (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000), pp. 367–401.Google Scholar
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© Sheldon Gellar 2005

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  • Sheldon Gellar

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