- Research Handbooks in Comparative Law series
Edited by Tom Ginsburg and Rosalind Dixon
Chapter 20: Federalism, Devolution and Secession: From Classical to Post-conflict Federalism
Sujit Choudhry and Nathan Hume 1 INTRODUCTION Federalism has long been a topic of study for comparative constitutional law. However, the scholarly literature on federalism is in a process of transition. For most of the twentieth century, the study of federalism was oriented around a standard set of cases in the developed world: Australia, Canada, Switzerland and the United States of America. These cases provided the raw material for certain fundamental questions: what is federalism? Why should federations be adopted? What role is there for courts? For the most part, these questions appear to have been answered, often with the aid of comparative analysis. To be sure, important debates persist. For example, scholars disagree over the relative priority to be given to the different goals served by federalism and how those goals should shape the allocation of jurisdiction. In the area of environmental policy, for example, new opportunities for democratic self-government and policy experimentation argue for greater regional authority but also generate inter-jurisdictional externalities, which argue against it. This debate relies on an implicit understanding of its terms and range, and participants in such discussions of federalism often draw on the same standard set of jurisdictions as illustrations of models to be followed and dangers to be avoided. Recent developments in the practice of constitutional design have challenged this consensus. Many states in the developing world, such as Ethiopia, Iraq, Nigeria and Sudan, have adopted federal solutions to manage ethnic conflict, often as part of a broader package of post-conflict...
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