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Paolo Dardanelli

This chapter briefly takes stock of the research literature on de/centralization in federations and identifies avenues for future research. It focuses on four broad domains: conceptualization, theorization, methodology and empirics. It highlights that important questions within these four domains remain unsettled or have attracted little scholarly effort. There is thus considerable scope for further research, along three lines in particular: (a) developing a conceptual common ground; (b) theorizing the effects that different forms and degrees of de/centralization have on important economic and political outcomes; and (c) refining how de/centralization is measured. As scholars take forward the study of de/centralization in federations, the chapter calls on them to integrate their research agendas as fully as possible with the wider research agendas in political science so as to benefit from cross-fertilization between sub-fields.

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Cheryl Saunders

This chapter explores existing and emerging terrains for research at the intersection of federalism and constitutionalism. It divides the subject matter between the various ways in which federalism and constitutionalism are linked and the additional dimensions presented by the interpretation of federal constitutions. In each case, it argues that, while there are some good country studies, there is much more to be done to understand theory, principle and practice in comparative terms. The task is made more urgent by two factors. The first is the increased interest in multilevel government as a potential solution to a range of problems presented by the unitary state. The second is the inadequacy of contemporary understanding of how federation by disaggregation can best be designed and given effect. Research on these issues is complicated by the need to grapple comparatively with constitutional experience on a global scale.

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Nicholas Aroney

Federalism and courts intersect in two important ways. The first concerns court adjudication of constitutional disputes about the structure and composition of federal and state institutions of government and the distributions of power between them. The second concerns the design of court systems within federations, with particular emphasis on their organizational features and allocated jurisdictions at federal and state levels. This chapter reviews the ways in which courts understand the constitutional presuppositions of particular federations, and how those presuppositions shape court interpretations of the governing institutions and distributions of power within federations. The chapter shows how such interpretations bear on the degree of centralization and decentralization within federations and how they can either safeguard or undermine the integrity of each federal system of government. Methodological issues associated with the comparative study of courts in federations are also discussed, and key questions for further inquiry are identified.

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Alain-G. Gagnon and Arjun Tremblay

The chapter establishes a new research agenda for studying federalism and diversity which centres on recognition and empowerment of national and ethnic minorities. It argues that we must now ask and answer three central questions: (1) how do deeply diverse democracies arrive at or transition to a model of federalism that accurately reflects and represents ethnic and/or national differences? (2) How can we assess the quality of multinational and multiethnic federalism? (3) How can democracies recognize and accommodate national and ethnic diversity as well as other collective identities? The chapter shows that addressing these questions is an important endeavour. It also hopes to show that answering these questions is a necessary step forward in realizing federal democracy’s full potential, particularly at a time when the virtues of recognizing diversity are being questioned in many long-standing liberal democracies.

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André Lecours

The last decade has witnessed both a radicalization and a moderation of nationalist movements in federal or decentralized liberal-democracies. While nationalist movements in Scotland and Catalonia have made a strong push for secession, no similar change has occurred in Flanders (where secessionist nationalism has remained marginal) or in Québec (where it has declined). These developments raise the question of the causes for the radicalization and moderation of nationalism. This chapter argues that the degree of autonomy afforded to minority national communities by federal arrangements is not that helpful for explaining transformation in the claims of nationalist movements. Rather, the chapter suggests considering the dynamism of these arrangements. It develops the argument that static federal systems are more likely to trigger strong secessionist claims than dynamic ones. Indeed, federal arrangements viewed as open to making ongoing adjustments in response to nationalist claims provide disincentives to the articulation of radical self-determination demands.

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Thomas O. Hueglin

Hueglin argues that federalism studies have remained undertheorized and that political theory has taken little notice of federalism as a normative proposition. He identifies four federalism-related concepts for further theoretical reflection: First, the idea of federalism offers a plural understanding of territorial identity that may contribute to a more complex understanding of self-determination; second, federalism comprises an ideational understanding of particular autonomy bounded in the universality of a common enterprise and protected by considerations of subsidiarity; third, a core principle of federalism, membership equality, invites reflection not only on the political legitimacy of majority rule, but also on the tension between the symmetry of equality and the asymmetry of diversity; fourth, the commitment to social solidarity embedded in the agreement to establish a federal union raises critical questions about the liberal separation of state and market. The chapter ends with the suggestion that democracy might learn from federalism.

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Francesco Palermo

While neither a state nor a federation, the EU operates in a significantly federal mode, and the very account of European integration derives from federalism. From its sui generis perspective, the EU can therefore offer valuable insights for a research agenda on federalism. The chapter identifies three main areas in this respect. The first regards secession, looked at from the angle of Brexit, its procedural regulation and the possible repercussions on the order from which one component unit splits. The second is policy analysis. The examples of critical policies such as monetary union and immigration raise significant issues for federal studies, such as the challenges of division of powers, the establishment of parallel structures, and the consequences of the hegemonic role of one individual country. The third is asymmetry in institutions, policies and procedures, which is a structural element not only of the EU but more generally of contemporary federalism.

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Sean Mueller

This chapter deals with shared rule, the other key aspect of federalism next to self-rule. Shared rule has received much less academic attention than self-rule. Shared rule is defined as the ability of regional governments to influence state-wide decisions. It is therefore conceptually different from shared rule understood as centralization or horizontal cooperation, although regions might indeed cooperate with each other when using shared rule to combat further centralization. Shared rule can vary in both form and extent. The main argument advanced in this chapter is that the key to federal success – securing stability, protecting individual liberty and producing collective prosperity – lies in finding the appropriate balance between self-rule and shared rule. Empirically, the Regional Authority Index is presented and critically discussed before an agenda for future research is briefly outlined.

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Soeren Keil

Federalism has been used increasingly as a tool of conflict resolution in states that have faced violence between different groups. Countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Iraq and Nepal have introduced federalism in order to hold divided societies together. Yet, while there is a growing body of literature on the use of federalism in post-conflict societies, overall, the empirical evidence on the usefulness of federalism as a tool to overcome violence and lay the foundations for democracy remains mixed. In some countries, such as Bosnia and Nepal, federalism has contributed to the end of violence. However, in countries such as Iraq, and Sudan (after 2005), the introduction of a federal system has been linked with ongoing instability and further calls for secession. This chapter looks at the factors that make federalism work, and outlines a future research agenda on the use of federalism as a tool of conflict resolution.

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Harihar Bhattacharyya

Why is socially and culturally diverse Asia still overwhelmingly unfederal? This chapter seeks to answer the question by identifying the factors responsible for the adoption of federalism in some countries as well as its rejection in others, with particular reference to existing research and the practices of federalism in India, Pakistan and Malaysia. The central argument is that the federal discourse in Asia is to be conjoined to democracy discourse in order to assess the democratic effect of federalism, which is an important key to federal success. On the basis of a conceptual distinction between diversity-claims and equality-claims, it is emphasized that federalism in Asia needs to strike a balance between its concern for management of diversity and for the production of some equity in the social and economic realms. Appropriateness of federal designs often in combination with others for power sharing is suggested for areas of exploration.