What is federalism?

What Does Federalism Mean

We explain what federalism is, its characteristics and what federal states exist. Also, differences with centralism.

In federalism, local powers and general powers coexist.

What is federalism?

In political science , federalism is called a mode of political organization that consists of the unification of independent political entities in the same system of government , allowing them to retain a certain autonomy , at the same time making them adopt certain types of regulations, laws or common policies, in force in all federated entities.

In other words, federalism is the political doctrine by which different States or nations are grouped into one, whose common laws apply to all, since the sovereignty of the whole is granted. At the same time, it allows the federated states to have their own laws and a significant margin of autonomy . States formed in this way are known as federative states or federative nations.

As a government system, federalism proposes the negotiation between local powers and the decentralized management of the State , through the coexistence of two types of powers: the local or regional powers of each federated body, and the general or federal powers that govern to the whole. This division encompasses all branches of public power : executive , legislative and judicial .

The federation should not be confused with the confederation. The latter case is a particular type of federation in which a central power is erected even more limited than the federal power, so that the confederate states can participate as far as they wish in common decisions, or they can choose not to do so. In other words, a confederation is a grouping of independent countries, which can separate at will .

See also: Forms of government

Characteristics of federalism

Federalism is characterized, broadly speaking, by the following:

  • It establishes a centralized power (federal power) whose powers are very well delimited in a federal constitution, respecting the limits in which local power begins , so that a joint federal order and an individual local order coexist.
  • A federated nation is divided geographically and administratively into its member states , and power is exercised in a decentralized manner in each of them, despite the fact that there continues to be a nation's capital and a central power in charge of the joint management of the system.
  • The federal constitution is interpreted by a Supreme Court of Justice, also of federal authority , in order to effectively deal with the rigidity of the written constitutional text.
  • The Länder cannot be separated at will at any time, as in a confederation, but through a complex legal and political process.

Federal states

Federal states or federative states are those countries that are administered with federative regimes, as their name indicates. These types of countries are very common in the contemporary world, especially among the nations of the so-called First World. The following are examples of federative countries:

  • The Russian Federation.
  • The Helvetic Confederation (Switzerland).
  • The Federative Republic of Brazil.
  • The Argentine Republic.
  • The German Republic.
  • The Republic of Austria.
  • The Republic of the Union of Myanmar (formerly Burma).
  • The United States of America.
  • The Republic of India.
  • The United Mexican States.
  • The European Union.

Federalism and centralism

Centralism is a system totally contrary to the federative, in the sense that it is committed to the concentration of power in a single, general, central and total authority that governs the entire nation. Centralized power only admits partial autonomies, subject to the main power, such as the provinces of a country whose public powers are unique, although they usually have local or provincial headquarters.

The most extreme case of centralism is constituted, for example, by monarchies and empires , in which power resides almost exclusively in the will of the monarch.

Follow with: Republic

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