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Federalism is the mixed or 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, exemplified in the founding example of modern federalism by the United States of America under the
Federalism differs from
Leading examples of the
The terms 'federalism' and 'confederalism' both have a root in the Latin word foedus, meaning "treaty, pact or covenant." Their common meaning until the late eighteenth century was a simple league or inter-governmental relationship among sovereign states based upon a treaty. They were therefore initially synonyms. It was in this sense that James Madison in Federalist 39 had referred to the new United States as 'neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both' (i.e. neither a single large unitary state nor a league/confederation among several small states, but a hybrid of the two). In the course of the nineteenth century the meaning of federalism would come to shift, strengthening to refer uniquely to the novel compound political form, while the meaning of confederalism would remain at a league of states. Thus, this article relates to the modern usage of the word 'federalism'.
Modern federalism is a system based upon
Federalism is sometimes viewed as in the context of international negotiation as "the best system for integrating diverse nations, ethnic groups, or combatant parties, all of whom may have cause to fear control by an overly powerful center." However, in some countries, those skeptical of federal prescriptions believe that increased regional autonomy is likely to lead to secession or dissolution of the nation. In Syria, federalization proposals have failed in part because "Syrians fear that these borders could turn out to be the same as the ones that the fighting parties have currently carved out."
According to Daniel Ziblatt's Structuring the State, there are four competing theoretical explanations in the academic literature for the adoption of federal systems: