In the Scandinavian countries, there is general agreement that voluntary associations have played an important role in the making of democracy and the consolidation of democratic culture. This view is also supported by historical and sociological research (Klausen and Selle 1995; Gundelach 1988; Jansson 1985; Stenius 1987). Nevertheless, recent social and political developments indicate that the role of associations may be changing (Micheletti 1994; Rothstein, ed., 1995; Selle and Øymyr 1995). The external role of associations as actors in the process of negotiation and implementation of public policies has not changed, but many associations have become more centralized and inclined to act in accordance with modern management principles pari passu with their greater dependence on state policies and the market. This may reduce the emphasis of internal democracy in associations and make the membership role more passive. Following Tocquevillean thinking, reflected for instance in the work of Robert Putnam (1993 and 1995), these changes in the organizational society could represent a decline in ‘social capital’ and, as such, pose a problem to democracy.