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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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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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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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Nico Steytler

The focus on non-centralism includes proclaimed federations, countries with some federal arrangements, and local governments with some autonomy. Given the enormity of peace, governance and development challenges facing many African countries, research on the role that non-centralism can play in addressing these challenges is vital, and should pursue the following agenda: first, because unitary states often engendered ethnic-based conflicts, their functionality should be examined. Second, has federalism been able to resolve these conflicts and hold countries together by accommodating minority groups? Third, could other forms of territorial accommodation of ethnic groups provide peace dividends, such as autonomy arrangements and secession? Fourth, could autonomous local government facilitate a more democratic and developmental state? Fifth, what causes the gap between non-centralist policies and laws, on one hand, and practice on the other, including the role of the political traditions of centralism, the patrimonial state, and the absence of constitutionalism?

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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.

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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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Edited by John Kincaid

In this forward-thinking book, fifteen leading scholars set forth cutting-edge agendas for research on significant facets of federalism, including basic theory, comparative studies, national and subnational constitutionalism, courts, self-rule and shared rule, centralization and decentralization, nationalism and diversity, conflict resolution, gender equity, and federalism challenges in Africa, Asia, and the European Union. More than 40 percent of the world’s population lives under federal arrangements, making federalism not only a major research subject but also a vital political issue worldwide.
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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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Jenna Bednar

This chapter conveys three related lessons from recent federalism research. First, federalism’s authority boundaries affect the federation’s performance, shaping its capacity to bring security, prosperity and well-being, and justice to a society. Second, boundaries are contested, and multiple safeguards – judicial, extrajudicial and the governments themselves –maintain the boundaries of authority. Third, this chapter examines theories of boundary dynamics. Intentional constitutional revision is not the only way authority boundaries change, and it may not even be the most important way. Evolutionary processes may move the boundaries first, and constitutions may or may not be revised to recognize the new form of federalism in practice.  The lessons about authority boundaries are relevant across federal systems.