The Promise of Organization
Political Associations, 1820-1890, Debate and Practice
Political parties have often been seen as obstacles on the road to true democracy, and as instruments of over-ambitious career politicians. And before modern parties even existed, political associations were seen as dangerous 'machines', producing 'oligarchies'. Still, the modern voluntary association could fit into the system of representative government which rejected unrestrained popular passions, and also be an instrument of mobilizing the common people.
This program focuses on the enthusiasm, arguments and concrete activities of the organizers as well as the criticism offered by opponents of modern political organization. The three subprojects focus on three waves of associational mania and debate: modern antislavery organizations and other early pressure groups; organizing during the revolutions of 1848; mass political parties during the 1870s and 1880s. Together they discuss the introduction of organizations into politics.