Theory

Federal Democracy

Federal Democracy

Abstract

Federalism and democracy are often considered as coherent principles. However, when they are established in federal democracies, institutional structures and processes reveal tensions. Whereas democracy means autonomous governing of a community according to the will of its citizens, federalism integrates communities and requires coordinated governance between levels and constituent units. Parties and parliaments legitimize governments within jurisdictions, but constrain governance in the federal system. Contrariwise, coordinated governance strengthens the executives. No institutional form of federal democracy can rule out these conflicts. It is to political actors to cope with them. Comparative research can reveal how federalism and democracy should be linked in order to allow actors to balance effective coordination and legitimacy of governments.

 

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Posted by Arthur Benz in Theory, 0 comments
Nation-building in a Multinational State: Between Majority and Minority Aspirations

Nation-building in a Multinational State: Between Majority and Minority Aspirations

Abstract

Given the existence of distinct communities with different and often contradictory aspirations, multinational states are used to witnessing some rivalry between the majority and the minority groups. This contribution explores the nation-building dynamics in this context, with a particular focus on the majority group’s rhetoric. In this regard, the dominant nationalism identifies the status quo and the official symbols of the state as neutral, therefore accusing the nation-building efforts of the minority as partisan and divisive. Nevertheless, we know that both are trying to “nationalise” its citizens and gain support for their own nationalist cause. Drawing on the case of Spain to illustrate these remarks, I argue that the acknowledgement of this reality is the first step to settle a constitutional framework where both nationalisms can flourish and coexist.

 

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Posted by Carles Ferreira in Theory, 0 comments
De/Centralisation in Federations

De/Centralisation in Federations

Abstract

How powers are distributed between the federal government and the constituent units of a federation, or de/centralisation, is at the heart of federalism. There has recently been renewed interest in studying de/centralisation in federations, with several works addressing conceptualisation, measurement, theorisation, and causal analysis. This piece takes stock of this literature and discusses its contributions.

 

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Posted by Alex Danilovich in Theory, 0 comments
Second Chambers In Federal States

Second Chambers In Federal States

Abstract

Second chambers have a long history and were re-designed for the purposes of federalism with the invention of the US Senate. Today, almost all federal parliaments have a bicameral structure in order to allow the constituent units to exercise shared rule. The composition and selection of federal second chambers varies very much, though: the constituent units are either represented equally or by different numbers of delegates, who are, in most cases, either appointed or elected directly or indirectly. The core function of federal second chambers relates to legislation, even though not all of them are responsible for a full range of legislative matters or other legislative functions than just (suspensive or absolute) veto powers; in some cases, they also exercise non-legislative functions. Many federal second chambers are criticized for their political inefficiency and non-representation of constituent interests. It is doubtful, however, whether they could be replaced by an alternative mechanism.

 

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Posted by Anna Gamper in Theory, 0 comments
Intergovernmental Councils and the Stability of Federal Systems

Intergovernmental Councils and the Stability of Federal Systems

Abstract

Intergovernmental councils not only increase the effectiveness and efficiency of public policy-making, they can also contribute to federal stability. Regular meetings of members of governments shape the way federal systems deal with the increasingly interdependent relationship between the governments of a federation. When policy problems cut across jurisdictions, governments’ autonomy is at stake. Looking at examples of major reforms of fiscal policy in Australia, Canada, Germany, and Switzerland, this article identifies the conditions under which intergovernmental councils protect governments’ authority, discretion, and resources so as to avoid federal tensions. Federal governments, in particular, have been eager to get involved in many policy areas for which the constituent units are responsible. Hence, the extent to which intergovernmental councils contribute to the stability of today’s federations ultimately depends on their ability to make the federal government agree on joint solutions with the federated entities.

 

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Posted by Johanna Schnabel in Theory, 0 comments
Measuring Federalism and Decentralisation

Measuring Federalism and Decentralisation

Abstract

In this article I argue that federal scholars are well-advised to think of federalism as a continuum whereby subnational units can have more or less autonomy rather than allocating countries into federal and non-federal categories. The Regional Authority Index (RAI) measures the extent of self-rule and shared rule of regional government on an annual basis since 1950 and it reveals that regional autonomy arrangements in federal countries are more likely to be affected by reform than non-federal countries. In addition, self-rule appears to be the object of decentralization in non-federal countries whereas decentralization in federal countries has mostly affected shared rule. These are surprising results which come to the fore only when one escapes categorical thinking. The RAI also changes the way in which we think about the impacts of regional governance and thereby a whole new research agenda is being opened up.

 

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Posted by Arjan H. Schakel in Theory, 0 comments
What Does the EU tell us about Federalism?

What Does the EU tell us about Federalism?

Abstract

 

The link between federalism and the EU has been widely explored from the perspective of structural, definitional elements. Rather than looking at the impact of federalism on the EU, this paper looks at what the EU tells us about contemporary federalism. It is contended that the most significant contribution of the EU to the theory and practice of federalism is the key role of asymmetry. In the EU, like in other contemporary manifestations of federalism, asymmetry is the backbone of the functioning of the relations between the tiers of government, a structural rather than an accidental element of today’s federalism.

 

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Posted by Francesco Palermo in Case Studies, Theory, 0 comments
Intergovernmental Relations in Federal Systems: Ubiquitous, Idiosyncratic, Opaque and Essential

Intergovernmental Relations in Federal Systems: Ubiquitous, Idiosyncratic, Opaque and Essential

Abstract

Regardless of institutional design, all federal systems imply substantial degrees of interaction between federal partners. “Intergovernmental relations” (IGR) refer to the many modalities through which this interaction takes place. IGR take many shapes and forms. They fluctuate with time and according to policy areas. In this sense, they are idiosyncratic. They are, however, the essential “oil in the machinery” of every federal system, and as such may be rather ubiquitous. Following a short incursion in the terminological challenges relating to intergovernmental relations (and its companion: “comparative federalism”), this article explores the actors in the IGR game as well as the rich catalogue of legislative – and mostly executive-techniques on which these actors rely to structure their relations. IGR waltz between institutionalization and informality, often in an opaque fashion which tends to reinforce the executive branch of each federal partner.
This brief overview of IGR from a comparative perspective suggests that federations grounded in the “continental civil law tradition” are more likely to structure IGR through legal mechanisms and norms than their more pragmatic “common law” counterparts. Though this is a significant simplification, the latter tend to consider IGR primarily (if not exclusively) through a political lens. Yet – somewhat paradoxically – regardless of informality and legal status, IGR play similar functions in various federal systems. Coordination functions, of course. But also para-constitutional engineering ones, through which federal actors (generally the various executives) implicitly alter the official federal architecture.

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Posted by Johanne Poirier in Theory, 0 comments
Political Parties: Driving Federal Dynamics, adapting to Federal Structures

Political Parties: Driving Federal Dynamics, adapting to Federal Structures

Abstract

Liberal thinkers and supporters of majoritarian democracy are at odds with each other on the proper role of political parties in federal systems. Parties are seen either as guardians of the federal division of powers or as instruments to transcend federal barriers for the pursuit of uniform public policies. In analytical accounts, scholars have looked at two dimensions of territorial party politics: the level of symmetry in party competition and the degree of vertical integration within party organisations. There are many different ways, in which parties have responded to a multi-level political environment. In a complex two-way mutual interaction, parties have adapted to federal structures while at the same time driving federal dynamics.

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Posted by Klaus Detterbeck in Theory, 0 comments
Perspectives on Comparative Federalism

Perspectives on Comparative Federalism

Abstract

The number of countries embracing federalism is rocketing and research on federalism is booming. Federal studies are eventually abandoning the vain search for definitional clarity, and increasingly look at the potential of federalism to provide solutions to some of the most pressing challenges to contemporary constitutionalism. Federalism is indeed the oldest institutional mechanism to regulate pluralism, and has therefore a lot to offer in solving contemporary challenges originating from the quest for more pluralism, both institutional and societal.

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Posted by Francesco Palermo in Theory, 0 comments