Kampen om nærdemokratiet. En begrebshistorisk analyse af den danske debat om nærdemokrati i 1970'erne


  • Jesper Vestermark Køber


The battle for „local democracy“: An analysis of the Danish debate
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, discussions about democracy intensified around the world; the idea of representative democracy came under increasing scrutiny. Citizens engaged in grassroots movements and political scientists coined the concept „participatory democracy“ to conceptualize the wished-for change. In Denmark, these discussions led to the coining of the phrase „local democracy“ (nærdemokrati). The concept of near democracy unified an otherwise wide range of political actors, all of whom were critical of their alleged alienation from a bureaucratized society. Politicians, pundits and intellectuals envisioned the coming of a new democracy in which citizens would be eager to engage more in political life. However, widespread disagreement existed as to how local democracy should be understood and the extent to which it could be reconciled with representative democracy. Firstly, the concept added focus to protests against a municipal reform that had merged more than thousand market towns and parishes into fewer than 300 municipalities (kommuner) and counties (amter) – a reform that dismantled local communities and rendered democracy in practice more distant than before. Secondly, intellectuals saw local democracy as the herald of a new democratic era in tune with the philosophy of the youth rebellion. Thirdly, liberals from the Venstre party used the concept as a way to put forward a liberal critique of the welfare state. Throughout the 1970s, the new organization Local Government Denmark (Kommunernes Landsforening) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs significantly influenced the discussion of local democracy. A political desire to engage citizens in local politics and demonstrate that local democracy actually existed in the new municipalities characterized the local politicians’ ambitions. Thus, at the end of the decade, „local democracy“ came to embody the municipal and governmental strategies and only to a lesser extent the desire for reforms of parliamentary democracy.




Køber, J. V. (2019). Kampen om nærdemokratiet. En begrebshistorisk analyse af den danske debat om nærdemokrati i 1970’erne. Historisk Tidsskrift, 118(2), 118:2, 371–400. Hentet fra https://tidsskrift.dk/historisktidsskrift/article/view/115503