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date: 18 September 2020

Summary and Keywords

Federalism refers to the compound mode of government, combining a general government (the central or “federal” government) with regional governments (provincial, state, cantonal, territorial, or other sub-unit governments) in a single political system. Its distinctive feature is a relationship of parity between the two levels of government established, as exemplified in the founding of modern federalism of the United States of America under the 1787 Constitution. Federalism differs from confederalism, in which the general level of government is subordinate to the regional level, and from devolution within a unitary state, in which the regional level of government is subordinate to the general level. Instead, federalism represents the central form of the pathway of regional integration or separation. Leading examples of the federation or federal state include the Russian Federation, the United States, USSR, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, and India. Some also characterize the European Union as the pioneering example of federalism in a multi-state setting—a concept termed the federal union of states. Traditionally, federalism was defined as a simple league or inter-governmental relationship among sovereign states based upon a treaty. Whereas modern federalism is a system based upon democratic rules and institutions in which the power to govern is shared between national and provincial/state governments.

Keywords: federalism, regional governments, political system, confederalism, unitary state, federal union of states, modern federalism

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