Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Daniel Elazar Papers Index


Federal Systems of the World: A Handbook of Federal, Confederal and Autonomy Arrangements


Daniel J. Elazar

Federalist responses to current democratic revolutions

The vast changes that have occurred in Eastern Europe and the USSR since the first edition of this handbook bring us face to face with the opening of a new era in contemporary history, one in which the people themselves have rejected totalitarian communism and are seeking to restore civil society through the introduction of more liberal political regimes. In that, they are following in the footsteps of a similar movement that took place in Latin America earlier in the 1980s against the authoritarian regimes that had taken power there. Those, in turn, were stimulated by the ending of the authoritarian regimes in the European countries of the Mediterranean region -- Spain, Portugal, and Greece -- in the later 1970s. Suddenly, democracy, which only a decade ago had seemed to be in retreat in the face of growing repression throughout the world, has emerged as the real wave of the future.

One of the critical problems faced in several of those countries is that of accommodating internal diversity, often ethnic in character, and fostering appropriate links with their neighbors. In both of these cases, the only solutions that seem to be feasible are federal solutions. This is certainly true in the case of the biggest of the polities involved, the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, most of whose former republics are linked confederally through the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). As soon as glasnost and perestroika began to take effect, the different non-Russian nationality groups raised their heads and set their sights on greater independence. Shortly thereafter, the Russians themselves began to assert their 'Russianness' and to seek greater expression of it.

At present, the USSR successor states hang in the balance between greater independence for their nationalities or restoration of repressive centralized government. The USSR's nominal federalism which, despite the paper guarantees of its constitution, did not function in a federalistic way in practice, was incapable of responding satisfactorily to those demands so it was dissolved. Now those who believe that it is best or at least necessary to preserve its successor states, particularly Russia but also Ukraine and Georgia, under one general government are looking to federal solutions to solve their problems of balancing nationality demands with the desire or need for a common framework and are having difficulties in that.

But the CIS republics are not the only states involved. In Eastern Europe, totalitarian Communism imposed its own murderous straitjacket after each of the world wars. It finally collapsed under the weight of its own sins (one is tempted to say "internal contradictions"), opening the door to democracy and demonstrating the need for federal democracy at that. Czechoslovakia became nominally federal in 1968 -- the only major result of the Prague Spring to survive. While on its way to becoming meaningfully federal, however, Slovak nationalists engineered that state's peaceful secession, now much regretted by many Slovakians who perceive their loss while many Czechs are relieved at having shed a burden.

Yugoslavia, on the other hand, ruled by Leagues of Communists, although not a member of the Soviet bloc, erupted into civil war once the Soviet threat to its existence was eliminated. Two of its republics, Slovenia and Croatia, took the lead in seceding. Slovenia's secession was successful. Croatia successfully established its independence but has lost approximately a third of its territory to Serbia which invaded it to "rescue" local Serbs. Macedonia subsequently seceeded, while Bosnia has been wracked by a three-way civil war between Bosnian Muslims, Serbs, and Croats, and seems destined for partition in some form. Serbia, Montenegro, and those parts of the other republics captured by the Serbian army maintain at least the form of Yugoslav federalism. Nevertheless, all of this demonstrates that "federalism" imposed by force and ruled from the top is neither true federalism nor is it destined to be successful. Federalism is too intimately associated with democratic republicanism for that.

The German situation, which has been so very different, is a case in point. Their reunion of west and east was achieved through first reconstituting the states of the eastern German Democratic Republic. They then joined the western German Federal Republic. Part of the maintenance of democracy in a reunified Germany undoubtedly will be tied to the continued linkage of Germany to the European Community, itself an evolving confederation that has restored the possibility of confederation as a viable form of federalism, most recently through the Maastricht treaty.

Within the European Community, Spain, Portugal, and Greece returned to democracy as a precondition to joining the EC. In 1978 Spain adopted the regime of the autonomies, a form of federal solution designed to solve its own internal nationality problem. Over fifteen years after the adoption of a democratic constitution for Spain and the introduction of the regime of the autonomies, it is generally agreed that the introduction of those federal principles and arrangements has had extraordinary success in restoring democracy and diffusing internal conflict in that country. The continuation of a democratic regime in Greece was strongly influenced by that country's membership in the European Community. Portuguese democracy has also been influenced for the good by Community membership.

With a still-powerful Russia to their east and a newly-powerful Germany to their west, the former Soviet bloc countries of Eastern Europe are faced with their own problems of survival and renewal. There is every reason to expect that at some stage they either will be absorbed into the EC or its network, or older ideas of a middle European confederation may be revived, albeit more along lines of a confederation like that of the European Community to the west.

Turning to Latin America, the strengthening of federalism has been a significant item on the agendas of Argentina and Brazil in their turn from authoritarianism to liberal democracy. Brazil's new constitution increases the formal powers of the states vis-a-vis the federal government in the name of democracy. The formal and rather weak federal system of Mexico is becoming a vehicle for the emergence of an effective and competitive political opposition there through the Mexican states. Venezuela has elected to strengthen its existing federal system by providing for the popular election of state and local chief executives to strengthen its democratic regime. Recently, there has been some promise that regional confederal arrangements in Central America will be playing a role in the restoration of democracy in Nicaragua and Panama and other countries of that region.

The end of the statist epoch: a paradigm shift

In the early 1990s the world as a whole is in a paradigm shift of major proportions from a world of states modeled after the ideal of the nation-state developed at the beginning of the modern epoch in the seventeenth century to a world of diminished state sovereignty and increased interstate linkages of a constitutionalized federal charcter. This paradigm shift actually began after World War II. It may yet turn out that the United Nations, founded in San Francisco in May 1945 as no more than a league of politically sovereign states with the elevated goal of maintaining world peace, that had been riven by the ultimately fatal struggle between the two great powers that led to the Cold War, was the first step toward this paradigm shift. Despite the developments in Western Europe which led to the radical diminution of the political sovereignty of the member states of the European Community, and similar developments in other parts of the world, particularly Southeast Asia (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -- ASEAN) and the Caribbean, it was not until the collapse of first the Soviet empire and then the Soviet Union itself between 1989 and 1993, that the extensive and decisive character of this paradigm shift became evident to most people, even (or perhaps especially) those who closely follow public affairs. Most of the latter were and still are wedded to the earlier paradigm that the building blocks of world organization are politically sovereign states, most or all of which strive to be nation-states and maximize their independence of action and decision. While there are a few who have been aware of this paradigm shift as it was taking place and some who have advocated it as a major political goal, for most it has seemed to have crept up unawares as it were.

Let us understand the nature of this paradigm shift. It is not that states are disappearing, it is that the state system is acquiring a new dimension, one that began as a supplement and is now coming to overlay the system that prevailed throughout the modern epoch. That overlay is a network of agreements that are not only militarily and economically binding for de facto reasons but that are becoming constitutionally binding de jure to radically restrict what was called state sovereignty and force states into various combinations of self-rule and shared rule to enable them to survive at all. The implications of this paradigm shift are enormous. Whereas before, every state strove for self-sufficiency, homogeneity, and, with a few exceptions, concentration of authority and power in single center, under the new paradigm all states had to recognize their interdependence, heterogeneity, and the fact that their centers, if they ever existed, are no longer single centers but parts of a multi-centered network that is increasingly noncentralized, and that all of this is necessary in order to survive in the new world.

The principal form of political organization in the modern and early post-modern epochs, that is to say, at least since the seventeenth century, has been the nation-state, politically sovereign in its territory and exercising that sovereignty over or in the name of the people of that territory on an exclusive basis. For well over 300 years, the major political efforts of European civilization as well as peoples and countries influenced by that civilization have been directed toward building such politically sovereign states, and all too often in reifying them so that the states take on an existence separate from the peoples they are designed to serve. We have just passed through what is in all likelihood the last great era of state-building, namely the establishment of such politically independent states in the Third World as a result of the decolonization process. Today there are over 180 such states recognized in international law and participating in international politics.

While this kind of state-building and even statism has been the common denominator of the modern age and its immediate aftermath, parallel to it there has developed a second system of polity-building, one in which the benefits of statehood, namely liberty and autonomy, or, in contemporary terminology, self-determination and self-government, are gained through what generally may be denominated federal arrangements. Such arrangements reached their apotheosis in the modern epoch in the form of modern federations such as the United States under its 1787 constitution, Switzerland after 1848, and Canada from 1867. Indeed, during the modern epoch only federation offered a model of statehood capable of serving as an alternative to the reified state.

Since the end of the modern epoch, however, other species of federalism and autonomy have begun to come into their own, so that today over 50 of the 180 politically sovereign states are either federations or include within them forms of self-determination and self-government which represent extensions of the federal principle or applications of the idea of political autonomy. Since several of these contemporary states embrace a variety of such arrangements (the United States and the United Kingdom each include six different ones), the total number of arrangements is well over 100. Well over 300 separate polities have state status or the equivalent through such arrangements, while hundreds of local governments also have a real measure of constitutionally grounded autonomy. Nearly 60 politically sovereign states are members of constitutionally-anchored confederal arrangements.

Thus, there has emerged a parallel system to the state system which, in a world growing more complex and interrelated, has begun to act in the international arena in a variety of ways. As a result, the two systems have themselves begun to interact. The informal linkages between them were always there; now formal ones are developing as well.

The rapid spread of this parallel system is in great part a response to the effort on the part of a number of the reified, politically sovereign states to force the peoples on their respective territories into the procrustean jurisdiction of a single central government. In other words, their goal has been "one people, one government and one territory." In some cases this goal has been linked to revolutionary radicalism, in others to reaction; in some it has been liberal in content, in others conservative. But whatever the form or content, federal arrangements in some form have become the common denominator of the age.

In all too many cases, the centralized sovereign state became the procrustean state at the very least. Indeed, the term that was invented to describe this new creature -- "nation state" -- was, in itself, an ideal projection or a sleight of hand. We now are far enough removed from the process to recognize that rarely did the establishment of a particular state, embracing a given territory, reflect a pre-existing national homogeneity. In most cases, boundaries often were established by violent means. The formation of the nation came afterward, when the central authority subdued all the dissident elements within the territory to make the self-defined nation-state a reality. In the course of its development, the nation-state often became a citizen state, where each person was individually a citizen but was not entitled to maintain any substantial group identity other than that of the official nation.

If the truth be told, the homogeneous polity with so close a linkage between people, government and territory in every respect, simply has not come to pass, even in those countries where it once seemed to be farthest along the road. One major characteristic of the post-modern era is the ethnic revival, the re-emergence of the sense of primordial ties as central to individual identity. This development is reflected politically in the world-wide movement from class-based to ethnic-based politics.(1)

A second characteristic of the post-modern era is the linkage of peoples or nations across state borders. Inter-regional arrangements such as those in the Upper Rhine Valley offer one example of such linkages. There, people of Allemanian background living in three different nation-states -- France, Germany, and Switzerland -- a number of Swiss cantons, and the German land of Baden-Wurtenberg are linked together through a variety of devices.(2) State-diaspora arrangements of the kind that are characteristic of the Jewish people offer another example. Yet another is reflected in the interstate relations which are characteristic of the Arab world, which perceives itself as one Arab nation divided into a number of states but with trans-state linkages.

A third characteristic is the development of new governmental arrangements -- at least new to the modern era (some have classic antecedents) -- to accommodate post-modern trends. There are common markets which transcend the boundaries of the older nation-states. There are federacies and associated-state arrangements through which a principal state and a smaller one are linked together through asymmetrical federal ties for their mutual advantage.(3) Mini-states of a few thousand population have emerged that can exist because of the overall security shield provided by the great powers and the general predisposition on the part of the larger nations of the world to tolerate such entities and to protect them even though they could not protect or sustain themselves under the state system of the modern era. Among the new developments are entities within polities which possess autonomy or home-rule in one form or another. These new governmental arrangements have moved in two directions simultaneously, to create both larger and smaller political units for different purposes, to gain the economic or strategic advantages of larger size while at the same time maintaining smaller scale structures to secure certain kinds of indigenous communities, or to better accommodate ethnic diversity.

A fourth characteristic of the post-modern era is the establishment of new relationships between governments and territories, most of which flow out of these new governmental arrangements. The idea of more than one government exercising powers over the same territory was anathema to the European fathers of the modern nation-state. The twentieth century, on the other hand, is the age of federalism. Hence the existence of more than one government over the same territory, each with its special powers, competence, or tasks, is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon.(4)

A fifth characteristic, manifested in all these new relationships, is the growing reality of the limitations on sovereignty. No state today is as sovereign as any state was perceived to be 100 years ago, if only because even the great powers recognize their limits in a nuclear age when it comes to making unilateral decisions about war and peace. Many states are accepting these increased limitations and trading them off, as it were, for advantages. The European Union is the major example of how the acceptance of limitations on sovereignty in the economic sphere can be "traded off" for greater economic benefits under the military protection of the NATO security-community. It is not the only such example. At the other end of the Eurasian land mass, the members of ASEAN -- the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -- have taken substantial steps in the direction of limiting their freedom of action in many matters, while not formally limiting their political sovereignty, to attain greater military security and economic development.

A new theory of political relationships

The intellectual effort to come to grips with all of these phenomena has been much slower than developments in the real world. The accepted intellectual models of state-building in particular have tended to lag behind these new realities. Only recently is there beginning to be a recognition that new thinking and other models are needed to deal with them. More specifically, the dominant center -- periphery model of statehood is being challenged by the champions of a new model which views the polity as a matrix of overlapping, interlocking units, powers, and relationships.(5) A separate theory of federal relations is developing to replace the nation, that the arrangements mentioned above simply represent points on a centralization -- decentralization continuum. This theory is not confined to the definition of intergovernmental relations but is related to a larger understanding of politics, a federalist understanding which is challenging the dominant Jacobin -- Marxian view on a number of fronts.(6)

The center -- periphery model holds that sovereign power in a state is properly concentrated in a single center which may or may not be significantly influenced by its periphery. This model is derived from the organic theory of the polity and represents an effort to democratize preexisting monarchic or aristocratic polities by conquering and transforming the center of power in each. While its modern political sources are to be found in Bourbon France, in the works of French political theorists exemplified by Jean Bodin, and in Rousseau's statist interpretation of the general will, its democratic expressions are principally Jacobin. Jacobinism is a European invention given form in the French Revolution and subsequently extended and reshaped by Marx and various socialist movements of the nineteenth century. Centralization is the organizational expression of Jacobinism, which distrusts dispersed power because of the historical experience out of which it grew, in which localism was synonymous with support for the pre-revolutionary power-holders.

Parallel to the center -- periphery model is the pyramid model originally developed for such hierarchical states as ancient Egypt, modern Prussia, and Napoleonic France. It became a general model in the wake of the development of the administrative state, reflecting the managerial conception of political organization. While originally authoritarian in character, if not totalitarian, as a managerial model it has been adapted for democratic republics.

The matrix model, whereby authority and power are dispersed among a network of arenas within arenas, is almost inevitably federalist in its origins. Federalism is derived from covenant and compact theories of the polity and, in its modern form, represents the effort to democratize republicanism. For moderns, its immediate political sources were the Puritans, Reformed and Calvinist theologians, Hobbes, Locke, and Montesquieu. The foundations of modern federalism are to be found in the American revolutionary experience, including its constitution-making phase. The most articulate expressions of this model are to be found in The Federalist and Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America. Its organizational expression is non-centralization, the constitutional diffusion and sharing of powers among many centres. Its logical outcome is the construction of the body politic out of diverse entities that retain their respective integrities within the common framework.

The federal principle and its uses

Utilizing the federal principle does not necessarily mean establishing a federal system in the conventional sense of a modern federation. A federation is a polity with a strong overarching general government whose constitution is recognized as the supreme law of the land and which is able to relate directly to the individuals who are dual citizens in both the federation and their constituent states. The position and autonomy of the latter are constitutionally protected. Despite the tendency to limit federalism to that model, the federal principle actually is embodied in a wide variety of structures, each adapted to a particular polity. This is possible because the essence of federalism is not to be found in a particular kind of structure but a particular set of relationships among the participants in a political system. Consequently, federalism is a phenomenon that provides many options for the organization of political authority and power; as long as the proper relations are developed, a wide variety of political structures can be developed that are consistent with federal principles.

What is federalism?

Federal principles are concerned with the combination of self-rule and shared rule. In the broadest sense, federalism involves the linkage of individuals, groups and polities in lasting but limited union, in such a way as to provide for the energetic pursuit of common ends while maintaining the respective integrities of all parties. As a political principle, federalism has to do with the constitutional diffusion of power so that the constituting elements in a federal arrangement share in the processes of common policy-making and administration by right, while the activities of the common government are conducted in such a way as to maintain their respective integrities. Federal systems do this by constitutionally distributing power among general and constituent governing bodies in a manner designed to protect the existence and authority of all. In federal systems, basic policies are made and implemented through negotiation in some form so that all can share in the system's decision-making and executing processes.

As many philosophers, theologians, and political theorists in the Western world have noted, the federal idea has its roots in the Bible. Indeed, the first usage of the term was for theological purposes, to define the partnership between humans and God described in the Bible which, in turn, gave form to the idea of a covenantal (or federal) relationship between individuals leading to the formation of a body politic, and between bodies politic leading to the formation of compound polities. The political applications of the theological usage gave rise to the transformation of the term "federal" into an explicitly political concept.

The term "federal" is derived from the Latin foedus which, like the Hebrew term brit, means covenant. In essence, a federal arrangement is one of partnership, established and regulated by a covenant, whose internal relationships reflect the special kind of sharing which must prevail among the partners, namely one that both recognizes the integrity of each partner and seeks to foster a special kind of unity among them. Significantly, shalom, the Hebrew term for peace, is a cognate of brit, having to do with the creation of the covenantal wholeness that is true peace.

The spread of the federal idea

The federalist revolution is among the most widespread of the various revolutions that are changing the face of the globe. Federalism has emerged as a means of accommodating the spreading desire of people to preserve or revive the intimacy of small societies, and the growing necessity for larger combinations to mobilize the utilization of common resources better. Consequently, federal arrangements have been widely applied, on the one hand, to integrate new polities while preserving legitimate internal diversities and, on the other, to link established polities for economic advantage and greater security. Nearly 80 per cent of the world's population now live within polities that either are formally federal or that utilize federal arrangements in some way, while only 20 per cent live in polities that can be denominated as outside of any federal arrangements.

Accompanying this spread of federalist arrangements has been an expansion of the variety of means for translating the federal idea into practice. Whereas in the nineteenth century federalism was considered particularly notable for the rigidity of its institutional arrangements, in the twentieth century it has come to be particularly useful for its flexibility when it comes to translating principles into political systems. Pre-modern Europe knew of only one federal arrangement: confederation. In a confederation, the general government is the creature of and subordinate to the constituent governments and can only work through them. While it may be established in perpetuity, it is quite limited in scope. Two centuries ago, the United States invented modern federalism and added federation as a second form, one that was widely emulated in the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, especially since World War II, new forms have been developed or federal elements have been recognized in older ones previously not well understood.


Confederation: Several pre-existing polities joined together to form a common government for strictly limited purposes, usually foreign affairs and defence, and more recently economics, that remains dependent upon its constituent polities in critical ways and must work through them.

Federation: A compound polity compounded of strong constituent entities and a strong general government, each possessing powers delegated to it by the people and empowered to deal directly with the citizenry in the exercise of those powers.

Federacy: Whereby a larger power and a smaller polity are linked asymmetrically in a federal relationship in which the latter has substantial autonomy and in return has a minimal role in the governance of the larger power. Resembling a federation, the relationship between them can be dissolved only by mutual agreement.

Associated state: An asymmetrical arrangement similar to a federacy but like a confederation in that it can be dissolved by either of the parties under pre-arranged terms.

Consociation: A non-territorial federation in which the polity is divided into "permanent" transgenerational religious, cultural, ethnic or ideological groupings known as "camps", "sectors", or "pillars" federated together and jointly governed by coalitions of the leaders of each.

Union: A polity compounded in such a way that its constituent entities preserve their respective integrities primarily or exclusively through the common organs of the general government rather than through dual government structures.

League: A linkage of politically independent polities for specific purposes that function through a common secretariat rather than a government and from which members may unilaterally withdraw at will, at least formally.

Joint functional authority: An agency established by two or more polities for joint implementation of a particular task or tasks.

Condominium: A polity ruled jointly by two external powers in such a way that the inhabitants of the polity have substantial internal self-rule.

Confederal, federacy, associated state, and common market arrangements as we now know them are post-modern applications of the federal principle and political scientists have rediscovered the degree of federalism involved in consociational polities, unions and leagues. There is every reason to expect that the post-modern world will develop new applications of the federal principle in addition to the arrangements we already know, including functional authorities and condominiums. Thus, reality itself is coming to reflect the various faces of federalism.

What the federalist revolution means: some examples

The reassertion of ethnic and regional identities is worldwide in scope and promises to be one of the major political issues of this generation and the next century. There are some 3,000 ethnic or tribal groups in the world conscious of their respective identities. Of the over 180 politically "sovereign" states now in existence, over 170 are multi-ethnic in composition. In sum, while the ideology of the nation-state remains strong, the nation-state itself is rare enough. Nearly one-half of those states are involved in formal arrangements utilizing federal principles in some way to accommodate demands for self-rule or shared rule within their boundaries or in partnership with other polities.

Even as Western Europe moved toward a new-style confederation of old states, its federalist revolution was taking yet another form in the revival of even older ethnic and regional identities in the political arena. As a result, Belgium, Italy, and Spain have constitutionally federalized or regionalized themselves. Portugal devolved power to its island provinces -- as the Netherlands and Denmark have long since done. Switzerland, Germany and Austria, already federal systems, are undergoing an intensification of their federalist dimensions in one way or another.

Most of the new states of Asia and Africa must come to grips with the multi-ethnic issue, even if only a few do so through formally federal systems as in India, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Pakistan. It is an issue that can be accommodated only through the application of federal principles that will combine kinship (the basis of ethnicity) and consent (the basis of democratic government) into politically viable, constitutionally protected arrangements involving territorial and non-territorial polities. The success or failure of that effort will determine the peace of the world.

Western Asia and the Mediterranean region are no exceptions to this problem of ethnic diversity. Indeed, many of its current problems can be traced to the breakdown of the Ottoman Empire, which had succeeded in accommodating communal diversity within a universal state that provided for ethno-religious home rule for several centuries. The inter-communal wars in Cyprus, Iraq, Lebanon, and Sudan, not to speak of the minority problems in Egypt and Syria and the Jewish-Arab struggle, offer headline testimony to this reality. Federal solutions are no less relevant in the Middle East than elsewhere, but in the Middle East especially is the need greatest for a post-modern federalism, a federalism that is not simply based upon territorial boundaries but recognizes the existence of long-enduring peoples as well.

Forms of autonomy or self-rule

In Varieties of Autonomy Arrangements, the original working paper on the subject published by the Jerusalem Institute for Federal Studies in anticipation of the autonomy talks called for in the Camp David Accords, 91 currently functioning examples of autonomy or self-rule, ranging from classic federation to various forms of cultural home-rule, were identified in 52 different states. Since then, others have come to our attention, bringing the total included here to over a hundred. If each separate self-governing comprehensive political entity were to be counted, the number would be in the hundreds, and if local home rule arrangements were added, in the thousands. The examples reflect the same purposes that have led to the creation of "sovereign" states, namely the achievement of self-determination by collectivities (nations, peoples, even tribes) under such conditions that require at least a formal commitment to democratic republicanism. Since over 90 per cent of all "sovereign" states encompass a significant ethnic diversity, not to mention historic and traditional territorially based differences and interstate regional ties, they represent necessary responses to a real human condition.

The variety of arrangements extant includes:

  1. Federations: there are 23 formally federal systems in the world today.
  2. Confederations: of these are three actual ones in existence and three others de facto; the European Union is the prime example.
  3. Decentralized unions in which there is regional or local functional autonomy or which are divided into historic provinces with autonomous municipal powers (e.g., the Netherlands).
  4. Feudal arrangements transformed (e.g., Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Monaco, and San Marino).
  5. Federacies such as Puerto Rico and the United States, or Bhutan and India.
  6. Home-rule, of which there are at least two kinds: that which is unilaterally granted with local consent, as in ex-colonial situations; or constitutional home-rule, generally municipal, embodied in a constitution or charter.
  7. Cultural home-rule, designed to preserve a minority language or religion.
  8. Autonomous provinces or national districts (which the Communist world had developed extensively, but which also exist in countries like Nigeria).
  9. Regional arrangements, both intra-national where there is regional decentralization as in Italy and Spain, or trans-national, such as the kind of regional functional arrangements in the Upper Rhine Valley.
  10. Customs unions, an old-fashioned device that has taken on new meaning, particularly in southern Africa.
  11. Leagues based upon common national or cultural ties, such as Benelux, the Nordic Union, or the Arab League.
  12. State-diaspora ties, such as those that link the Jewish people the world over or those of India that link the union's constituent states and their diaspora communities in other parts of the country or outside.
  13. Extra-territorial arrangements or enclaves -- Egypt and the Sudan have a fairly elaborate system of enclaves on their borders.
  14. Condominiums, such as Andorra, which has been functioning under joint rule for 700 years.
  15. State structures functioning through autonomous tribes: Afghanistan has such a two-tier system. Recently one party captured the state structure but has not been able to deal with the autonomous tribes and consequently brought the country to civil war.
  16. Consociational arrangements of two kinds: equal pillars (e.g., Belgium) or ethno-religious communities in rank order, some of which are dominant and others subordinate.

Where such arrangements exist, they usually exist in multiples. The United States is a good example of this with its federal system, constitutional home rule within the states, federacy arrangements with Puerto Rico and the Northern Marianas, the special status of Indian tribes in their tribal areas with a growing measure of territorial home rule, and three associated states in Micronesia: the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia (itself a federation), and the Marshall Islands. Or take the United Kingdom with its different special relationships with Scotland, Wales, Ulster, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey, growing out of its pre-modern constitutional history, not to speak of its remaining colonies with home rule. In short, where there is a turning from the reified state-exclusive sovereignty -- centralism syndrome toward a self-rule/shared rule syndrome, it manifests itself more or less across the board.

The Handbook

What follows is a handbook of existing forms of self-rule and autonomy across the world. As a handbook, it is essentially an outline and not a comprehensive description of any of the various forms. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, incorporating the Jerusalem Institute for Federal Studies, has assembled data on each case and has access to the data in the files of its sister institutes in the International Association of Centers for Federal Studies and particularly the Center for the Study of Federalism in Philadelphia.

This handbook represents the first major effort to inventory and describe all known examples of federal and autonomous arrangements, compare their basic features, and classify them by form. Each example is treated within the following framework:

Introduction: A brief description indicating the federal arrangement or arrangements involved, with a brief historical background highlighting any special features of note.

Territorial Structure and Population: Basic information on each of the units of government involved.

General government structure: General description of political system and/or connections between political systems of the polities involved.

Constitutional principles and design: Including government structure (executive, legislative, and judicial) and distribution of selected functions (taxation, land use, police, education).

The various polities are then compared with regard to international relations (what, if any, role the federated states or constituent units play) and symbolic representations of autonomous entities (flag, anthem, stamps, special linguistic rights).

Political culture: A brief and at times preliminary assessment of the political culture as it influences the shared rule arrangement principally based on the 12-cell matrix developed by the author to compare political cultures.

Political dynamics/Recent constitutional developments: As they relate to issues of federalism, autonomy and shared rule.

The growing complexity of shared rule arrangements is reflected in the following pages. While it cannot be shown exactly in table of contents or the headings for each arrangement, we have tried to provide maximum clarity in this regard. Thus: 1) ordinary federations are designated in the following manner -- UNITED STATES; 2) federacies and equivalent asymmetrical federal arrangements are designated as follows -- UNITED STATES: FEDERACIES, Puerto Rico, Northern Marianas, Native American Nations; 3) associated state arrangements in which the associated states do not enjoy international recognition as politically sovereign are designated as follows -- NEW ZEALAND: COOK ISLANDS; 4. associated state arrangements in which the associated states have international recognition as political sovereign -- MARSHALL ISLANDS: UNITED STATES.

References: The principal sources for continuing information about the political systems in question are: Keesings Contemporary Archives until 1987, and Keesings Record of World Events since 1987 (Harlow: Longman Group, UK Ltd.); Facts on File (New York: Facts on File, Inc.), especially "Weekly World News Digest"; Statesman's Yearbook (New York: St. Martin's Press); The Europa Yearbook (London: Europa Publications Ltd.); The World Factbook (Washington: CIA Publications); Publius: The Journal of Federalism, 1971-present, articles on individual polities and comparative articles. A more specialized bibliography is listed in the references at the end of each entry.

This handbook is divided into three parts. The first treats federal and autonomy arrangements utilized to maintain entities within or attached to particular polities. The second treats such arrangements as they are used to link separate states in confederal arrangements. The third reports on recently dissolved federal arrangements. Four appendices suplement the information contained in the body of the handbook.


1. See Nathan Glazer, "From Class-based to Ethnic-based Politics", in Daniel J. Elazar, ed., Governing Peoples and Territories, Philadelphia, ISHI Publications, 1982.

2. See Susan Koch, "Toward a Europe of Regions: Transnational Political Activities in Alsace," in Publius, 4:3 (Summer 1974); and Stephen Schechter, "Sharing Jurisdiction Across Frontiers," in Daniel J. Elazar, ed., Self-Rule/Shared Rule, Ramat Gan, Israel, Turtledove Publishing, 1979.

3. See R. Michael Stevens, "Asymmetrical Federalism: The Federal Principle and the Survival of the Small Republic", Publius, 7:4 (Fall 1977).

4. This issue is treated more fully in Daniel J. Elazar, ed., Federalism and Political Integration, Ramat Gan, Israel, Turtledove Publishing, 1979, particularly the Introduction and Chapter 1.

5. Federalism and Political Integration, passim.

6. See, for example, Daniel J. Elazar, Exploring Federalism (University, Ala.: University of Alabama Press, 1987); Vincent Ostrom, The Political Theory of a Compound Republic: Designing the American Experiment (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987); Martin Landau and Eva Eagle, "On the Concept of Decentralization", Reseach Report of the Project on Managing Decentralization, University of California at Berkeley (March 1981); Martin Landau, "Redundancy, Rationality, and the Problem of Duplication and Overlap", Public Administration Review (July/August 1969), pp.346-58; Martin Landau, "Federalism, Redundancy and System Reliability", Publius, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Fall 1973), pp.173-196.

* * *

The research and preparation of both the first and second editions of this book was undertaken by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Assistance in its preparation came from the International Association of Centers for Federal Studies and the Center for the Study of Federalism at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, co-sponsors of the project. Special thanks for publication support are due the Earhart Foundation, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Foundations of the Milken Family, Los Angeles, California.

The second edition was strengthened by the contributions of scholars throughout the world. We are indebted to the following individuals for their assistance: Australia - Brian Galligan, Cheryl Saunders; Austria - Fried Esterbauer; Bhutan, India, SAARC - Rasheeduddin Khan; Brazil - Lino Ferreira Netto; Canada - Ronald L. Watts; Germany - Hans-Peter Schneider; Japan - Benedict Stavis; Liechtenstein, Switzerland - Max Frankel; New Zealand - Stephen Levine; Spain - Robert Agranoff, Joseph M. Vilaseca Marcet, Isidre Molas; Sudan - Mordechai Abir; UAE - Emile Nakhleh; UK - Murray Forsyth; and USA - Joseph Marbach.

Many Jerusalem Center staff members were involved in the decade-long preparation of the first edition of this reference work. Those most involved included Alysa Dortort, Naomi Linder, Ellen Friedlander, and Kirk Preuss, without whose assistance this book would not have been completed. The second edition benefitted from the assistance of Zeev Schwartz, Deborah Gerber and Jeffrey Meltzer. Mark Ami-El, JCPA Publications Coordinator, brought both to press in his usual skilled way.

Entries for the different polities reflect the following contributions:

Map Credits: U.S. State Department -- Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Comoros, Ghana, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands Antilles, Nigeria, Papua -- New Guinea, St. Christopher and Nevis, Solomon Islands, South Africa: Dependent Black Homelands, Vanuatu, ASEAN, European Communities; Keesings Contemporary Archives and Keesings Record of World Events -- Czechoslovakia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Spain, Switzerland, Tanzania, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia; Publius: The Journal of Federalism -- Austria, Cyprus, Sri Lanka; Group Coudenberg, The New Belgian Framework (1989) -- Belgium; Economist -- Germany; W.R. Mead and S.H. Jaatinen, The Aaland Islands (London: David & Charles, 1975) -- Aaland Islands; R.D. Dikshit, The Political Geography of Federalism (New York: John Wiley, 1975) -- Bhutan, India; Regional Institutions and Reginalization, Council of Europe Studies, No. 8 -- Italy; Jerusalem Post -- Lebanon; Robert E. Scott, Mexican Government in Transition (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1964) -- Mexico; Ivo D. Duchacek, Comparative Federalism: The Territorial Dimension of Politics (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1970) -- Myanmar; Martin Gilbert, Russian History Atlas (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1972) -- USSR; Austin Ranney and Howard Penniman, Democracy in the Islands (Washington: American Enterprise Institute, 1985) -- Micronesia, Marshall Islands; Harry Bernstein, Venezuela and Columbia (New York: Prentice -- Hall, 1964) -- Venezuela; Treaties and Alliances of the World (London: Longman, 1986) -- Benelux, Nordic Council.

Daniel J. Elazar

Elazar Papers Index / JCPA Home Page / Top of Page