Associations and Associationalism

Abstract - EN

Many people still think of citizens’ associations either as unrealistic utopias or as offering social or cultural services that neither the state nor the market wants to provide. This entry will define associationalism, showing that its project for society has never been a mere pipe dream, nor has it been confined to addressing poverty or to the socio-cultural sector. In the 19th century, association between workers was really thought of as an economic model. It was a relatively successful attempt to restore the economy to civil society via a serious political movement. Sometimes described as associationalist socialism, and sometimes as libertarian socialism, this movement’s goal was not so much the disappearance of all forms of political and economic coordination at a supra-local level as the end of capitalism. Basically, it was less about replacing public action and more about replacing capitalism, which at the time was in rapid industrial expansion. This entry aims to show why associationism, as a political goal, is still relevant today as a society project: beyond capitalism and towards a radical and federative democracy.