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Contents:
  1. Multi-level governance
  2. The Dynamics Of Federalism In National And Supranational Political Systems
  3. Navigation menu
  4. Dynamic Federalism - 50 Shades of Federalism
  5. Available Trees & Shrubs

The complexity of the power relationship has been observed in a variety of policies during the past quarter-century as has the discussion of whether or not contemporary U. Focusing mainly on the period of the past 50 years of U. Instead, this article suggests that the clear functional responsibility between the federal government and state and local governments have characterized contemporary U. This feature has been quite substantial since s.

As a result, this article suggests that despite the increased complexity of the U. Baumgartner Frank R. Beer Samuel H. Bohte John and Meier Kenneth J. Conlan Timothy J. Ellison Brian A. Frey Bruno S. Fry Earl H. Foreign Affairs Council on. Foreign Relations Press New York. Harr J.

Scott Hess Karen M. Orthmann Christine H. Cengage Learning Boston.

Multi-level governance

Kettl Donald F. Kingdon John W. Kline John M. Lindblom Charles E.

The Dynamics Of Federalism In National And Supranational Political Systems

Lynn Laurence E. On the right side of the scale are those political systems that solve the tension by accentuating autonomy: more effort is made to preserving the autonomy of the subnational units rather than integrative mechanisms. Within the sub-set of autonomy indicators, a political system can score low on one indicator and high on the other.

While under the traditional approach the system should meet certain institutional requirements to be qualified as a federal system, under the dynamic approach other features can compensate for this. While we preserve labels such as unitary states, decentralised states, regional systems, federal systems and confederations, a neatly cut categorisation of states is not always possible, and not even necessary.

Spain, for example, would probably end up somewhere between regional states and federal states, but the exact label is not really important.

Navigation menu

Moreover, a categorisation of states is just a snap-shot. States evolve. Nowadays, in the centre of our attention are disintegrative states that move from the left side of the scale to the right. First of all, it facilitates comparative research since we can easily group MTS with similar scores on one or more of the three axes.

If we are mainly interested in the dynamics of state structures, we have a larger population than the twenty-something pure, traditional federal systems. We can look for factors that explain the position of specific types of states on the gliding scale. In addition, we can test whether the level of integration or disintegration is an explanatory factor for other things — for example the behaviour of courts in federal disputes, or the stability of the political system.

Federal System of India - Federal vs. Unitary - Indian Polity Free Course - CiviCoursify

Secondly, we can examine phenomena that are not easily captured under traditional federal theory. An example is asymmetry. While traditional federal theory promotes symmetry for the sake of equality and stability, asymmetry is a growing trend in contemporary MTS. In a dynamic approach, we can measure the different sub-national entities on the autonomy-axis, so that we can give an exact score to the differences in status and competences between the most and the least autonomies subnational entities.

This might instruct as to how asymmetric a system can be before it risks becoming unstable.

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Thirdly, we can examine the impact of the international level on the relations between central authority and subnational units. This is especially important for MTS that are part of the European Union, as the impact of the European integration process upon the constitutional structure of the member states is more intense than that of any other supra-national organisation.

As mentioned, the core question in a dynamic approach to federalism concerns the process of integration or disintegration. In this approach, we examine the mechanisms that have a centralising or decentralising effect on the political system. For example, there is a common agreement that courts generally have a centralising effect when deciding on federalism disputes; yet some courts — mostly in multinational systems — take a more balanced approach Popelier Political parties can have such effects as well.

For instance, in Belgium, the break-up of national parties into regional parties had a disintegrative effect. Techniques to allocate powers may also have some impact: we can hypothesise that the predominance of concurrent powers has a centralising effect, whereas the predominance of exclusive powers has a decentralising effect. If we have more insight into the conditions under which these mechanisms have a centralising or decentralising effect, we might be able to answer the question whether the dynamics of a specific political system can be turned through constitutional engineering.

This is a topical question in the light of secessionist movements in countries such as Belgium, Canada, Spain and the UK as well as developments in, for example, Sri Lanka, where a devolutionary trend institutionalised at the end of the s a form of multinational conflict management Oberst but constitutional guarantees of national sovereignty and indivisibility are relied upon to break secessionist tendencies. The Belgian case demonstrates the need for a dynamic approach to federalism.


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In the last five decades, it evolved from a unitary state into a federal state with confederal traits. Up until now, this has taken the shape of six state reforms, resulting, in in a constitutional provision that labelled Belgium as a federal state. The Belgian federation, however, does not meet several of the criteria that defines federal states under the Hamilton approach.

For example, in , discussions on the use of a second chamber did not result in the abolition of the Senate. Instead the federalism argument was used to maintain an institution that did not fulfil a federalist function: The Senate was reformed, but in the new constellation a minority represented the federated entities and they were appointed on the basis of the federal, not the regional, elections. Since the sixth state reform in , the Senate has been reformed into an actual Chamber of the sub-states, but is left with only few competences.

On the other hand, the subnational entities can directly interfere, with a suspensory vote, in the federal decision-making process.

Dynamic Federalism - 50 Shades of Federalism

Moreover, while not represented as such, they have a dominant say through the linguistic groups that structure the federal parliament, the federal government, as well as the administration and the courts. The federal government consists of an equal number of French- and Dutch speaking ministers; these ministers are nominated by regional parties that represent the interests of their language groups. Besides, the two language groups in Parliament have a suspensory veto right. The federalism argument was also used in the Flemish fight for subnational constitutional autonomy, although the little constitutional autonomy that was acquired has not been used in a way that is substantially different from what was regulated at the federal level.

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On the other hand, the subnational entities do enjoy substantial autonomy when it comes to concluding international agreements or involvement at the EU level. This demonstrates that the traditional criteria to qualify federations are not always functional: The Senate did not fulfil the function of involving the federated entities in central decision-making, but they got their say through other means, to the point that the system even acquired confederal traits, as no federal decision can be made without the consent of both language groups.

It also shows how a low score on one indicator subnational constitutional autonomy can be compensated for by a high score for another indicator international affairs.


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The devolving dynamics in Belgium are based upon the allocation of exclusive powers, equality of federal and federated entities, regionalised political parties, and a general ambiance of distrust and conflict typical of dyadic federalism. The dominant political party, N-VA, is a Flemish-nationalist party that supports Flemish independence. Legal scholars and political scientists are eager to point out that confederalism, according to traditional theory, means the association of independent, sovereign states, implying that technically confederalism cannot precede secession.

This shows, once more, how traditional theory is unable to capture political reality. Suggested citation: Popelier, P. Loughlin,