At the end of the twentieth century, it becomes ever more clear that Western countries are witnessing the exhaustion of the two great political and economic systems—democratic capitalism and collective state socialism—that have held sway for the past 150 years. Yet neither the traditional Right nor Left has been able to provide viable solutions to this crisis. In this book, Paul Hirst offers a new approach, which he calls associative democracy.
Not simply a utopian idea, associative democracy calls for new forms of economic and social governance as supplements to representative democracy and market economies. It addresses the problems of the overload of big government by democratizing and empowering civil society. It transfers social provision to self-governing voluntary associations, while retaining public funding and political accountability. In the economic sphere, it advocates regional economic regulation through public-private partnerships, the promotion of self-governing industrial districts, and the democratization of the company.