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FEDERALISM   Tags: decentralization  

Last Updated: Jul 28, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Introduction Print Page

What is Federalism?

Federalism can be one element of decentralization. In federal systems, power is shared between federal and state governments.

In comparison, in unitary states a state governed as one single unit in which the central government is supreme and any administrative divisions (subnational units) exercise only powers that their central government chooses to delegate.


Further Introductory Reading

Anderson, George. Federalism: An Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2008. 
About: This book defines federalism and examines the constitutional, legal, financial, and philosophical underpinnings of federal systems, incorporating examples not only from well-known and long-established federations such as Canada and the United States but countries that have only recently adopted a federal form of government. The author is well known both in Canada and around the world, both as a scholar and as a public servant.
Filippov, Mikhail, Peter C. Ordeshook and Olga Shvetsova, Designing Federalism: A Theory of Self-Sustainable Federal Institutions, Cambridge University Press, 2004.
About: The design of federal states from Russia and the Ukraine to Canada and the European Union typically develops from a false set of assumptions regarding the institutional building blocks of such a state. Rather than any carefully delineated allocation of policy jurisdictions, the authors argue that a number of institutional variables, not normally associated with federal design, can be critical in determining federal success.
Griffiths, Ann L. Handbook of Federal Countries. McGill-Queen's University Press, 2005. 
About: This handbook is an essential sourcebook of information, with maps and statistical tables in each chapter. The international authors examine a wide range of themes including the development of federalism in the country, the constitutional provisions relating to federalism, and the country's current political dynamics. The authors also include sources readers can consult for more information.
Karmis, Dimitrios, Theories of Federalism: A Reader, Palgrave, 2005.
About: This book brings together the most significant writings on federalism from the seventeenth century to the present. 
Loughlin John, John Kincaid and Wilfried Swenden. Routledge Handbook of Regionalism and Federalism. Routledge, 2013.
About: This handbook presents some of the latest theoretical reflections on regionalism and federalism and then moves on to discuss cases of both regionalism and federalism in key countries chosen from the world’s macro-regions. Assembling this wide range of case studies allows to present a general picture of current trends in territorial governance.


Constitutional Principle 2: Federalism. The History Navigator, 2013.

About: This episode covers one of the key priciples found in the American Constitution: Federalism.

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