Politics arouses few positive feelings, substituted by disillusion, disenchantment, indifference, and often by rage against parties and political men. The willingness to commit and to participate does not fallen down, but it takes mainly other roads, taking distance from political parties (looking at voluntary sector, associations, social movements). In Italy, these tendencies become already to arise in the ‘80s, with the growth of social participation at the expense of other forms of participation. The importance of social associations oriented at public goods production has increased in the last twenty uears while the influence of political parties has further decreased. In this article the main purpose is to develop a reflection on the relation between associations and participation. We ask if specific characters of participation to various association networks, if interpersonal boundaries, and if cultures developed within this field could influence political attitudes and various political participation forms, trying to understand synergies and tensions between them (and how these have been changed during the years). The importance of these questions is far-back well known, at least from the publication of the Démocatie en Amérique by Tocqueville, which has underlined the consequences of associations on American political life. However, the forms of the relation between participation and associations are different in modern democracies, and they have changed in the last decades.