Federalism and Political Decentralisation: A Critical Examination

Federalism and Political Decentralisation: A Critical Examination

Weekly Reading Seminar Series (Fall 2014)

(Fridays, 7:00 - 9:00 am, starting 31 October 2014)

Mario Lopez Areu
University of Murcia (Spain)
Visiting Research Fellow, Nepā School of Social Sciences and Humanities


Current pressures related to globalisation, combined with the need to reconcile diversity (ethnic, religious, language, nationality, etc.) and to improve governance, have led an increasing number of states to consider the advantages and disadvantages of federalism. At the same time, in the majority of existing federal states there are internal pressures to decentralise further and promote wider constitutional reforms. This situation has led to a significant expansion in the academic literature on federalism and decentralisation in comparative perspective.

This reading seminar aims to provide students with the basic concepts and analytical instruments they will need to understand and analyse the functioning of decentralised federal institutions and systems. The goal of the seminar is to familiarise students with the existing theoretical discussions and empirical evidence to be able to assess the political discussions and debates surrounding federalism and decentralisation, an area   of particular relevance to Nepal today.

Week 1 – Definitions and classical and contemporary theories about federalism and decentralisation

•    Rodriguez-Pose, A. and Gill, N. (2003) "The Global Trend Towards Devolution and its Implications", Environment & Planning C: Government & Policy, 21(3), pp. 333-351.

•    Burgess, M. (2006) Comparative federalism: theory and practice. New York: Routledge, chapter 3.

Week 2 – Models of federal systems in comparative perspective

•    Hueglin, T. y A. Fenna (2006). Comparative federalism: a systematic inquiry. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 55-84.

•    Watts, R. (2008) Comparing federal systems. Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, chapter 2.

•    Stepan, A. (2001) Arguing comparative politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 315-361.

Week 3 – Design and functioning of federal systems: representation, financing and intergovernmental relations

•    Colino, C. (2008) “The Spanish model of devolution and regional governance: evolution, motivations, and effects on public policy-making”, Policy & Politics, 36(4), pp. 573-586.
•    Watts, R. (2008) Comparing federal systems. Kingston: Queen’s University Press, chapters 4 & 9.

Week 4 – Federalism, democracy and nationalism

•    Colino, C. and Moreno, L. (2010) Diversity and unity in federal systems. Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, pp. 379-400.
•    Burgess, M. (2006) Comparative federalism: theory and practice. New York: Routledge, chapter 4.

Week 5 – Actors and processes

•    Obinger, H., S. Leibfried and Castles, F. G. (2005) Federalism and welfare state. new world and European experiences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-45.

•    Watts, R. (2008) Comparing federal systems. Kingston: Queen’s University Press, chapter 8.

Week 6 – The impact of federalism on public policies

•    Grindle, M. S. (2007) Going local: decentralization, democratization, and the promise of good governance. Princeton: Princeton University Press, chapters 3 & 4.
•    Ziblatt, D. (2006) Structuring the state: the formation of Italy and Germany and the puzzle of federalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 1-17.

Week 7 – The challenges of federalism: India and Spain today

•    Moreno, L. and Colino, C. (2010) Diversity and unity in federal systems. Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, pp. 289-319.

•    Austin, G. (1999) The Indian constitution: cornerstone of a nation. Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp. 186-265.

Week 8 – The case of Nepal: socio-economic context and goals of federalism

•    To be provided nearer the time.