Federalism and Centralism

Both federalism and centralism are two opposite terms from the conceptual point of view, both referring to different organizational models by the states.

The federalism and centralism are therefore antithetical, ways of understanding the political, social and economic functioning of a given territory. The adoption of a federal or centralized structure responds to multiple cultural, historical or geographical factors of the countries throughout the world.

In the first place, federalism prevails the coexistence and administrative coordination existing between different territories of different cultures dependent on a central power. This will subsequently be responsible for deriving to some extent different powers and competencies.

Alternatively, centralism or centralization supposes an opposite model based on the gathering or concentration of the powers of a state and the corresponding decision-making in a central decision-making core.

Elements of difference between federalism and centralism

Beyond the concept initially indicated, there are differentiating features between both forms of organization to highlight:

  • Distribution of the powers of the state:Administrative and institutional structure centralized in a central Administration against various territorial governments with independent sovereignty in a wide range of competences.
  • Attention to diversity:Federal states show greater attention to differences of a geographical, cultural or economic nature. In contrast, a centralized state proceeds uniformly and equally in decision making.
  • Legislative point of view: One model proposes the existence of a single legal system to apply to all territories, while the other distributes and applies an individual legal framework to each point.

Coexistence between federalism and centralism today

At the present time, and especially in the western framework, the adoption of mixed models between both modalities is more common.

A clear example is that of Spain, which is constituted as a state with national and territorial powers simultaneously in the form of autonomous communities.

Germany or the United States behaves in a similar way by alternating federal policies and institutions with the relevance of a central government that assumes ultimate control.

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