Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Daniel Elazar Papers Index


Constitutional Design and Power-Sharing
in the Post-Modern Epoch


Daniel J. Elazar

This book is a product of the fifth conference of the International Association of Centers for Federal Studies which met in 1984 at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in Jerusalem. Founded in 1977 in Basle, the Association embraces every research institute whose principal focus is the study of federalism and it has members on every inhabited continent. The existence of the Association is a reflection of the federalist revolution of our times. Although a hidden revolution, the federalist revolution, along with decolonization, urbanization and the various scientific and technological revolutions since the end of World War II has contributed in a major way to the reshaping of our world, to giving form to the post-modern epoch.

As of last count over a third of the world's population lives within political systems which formally define themselves as federal. Over 40 percent more live within political systems which make use of federal arrangements in one way or another, ranging from the European Community, a new-style confederation, to states like Tanzania, where the link between Tanganyika and Zanzibar is not precisely federal but partakes of many of the characteristics of constitutionalized power-sharing that we associate with federalism. Thus nearly three-quarters of the human race must deal with federal arrangements in their state political engagements. This figure does not include all the various forms of local power-sharing which have been constitutionalized in federalistic ways.

In many cases the existing federal arrangements are overlapping. Not unexpectedly, the establishment of a pattern tends to lead to further activity along the same lines. Once on the federalist bandwagon, so to speak, it becomes easier to use federal principles and to apply them in a variety of ways to solve different kinds of problems of governance. Thus the United States not only has a constitutional division of powers between the federal government and the 50 states, but 45 states have home rule provisions in their constitutions which provide for formal decentralization of powers to their municipal and in some cases county governments as well. Two offshore entities, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariannas Islands, have commonwealth status, and are what students of federalism have termed "federacies," that is to say, are linked in an asymmetrical federal relationship with the United States. Three other island groups are in the process of becoming associated states, an asymmetrical confederal linkage. Virtually all of the dozens of recognized Indian tribes are recognized in American constitutional law and increasingly in practice as "dependent sovereign nations," another form of federacy relationship within the continental limits of the U.S.A.1

Even in political systems that are not formally federal, federal arrangements have become widespread. For example, Israel is not a federal system by any definition, but rural local government in Israel is organized along strictly and even conventional federal lines with every settlement a constituent part of a regional council. Most cities are constitutional units in single or multi-purpose confederations of cities. Statewide, Israeli politics for many years was based on consociational arrangements, elements of which still prevail, and federal principals have been applied in other ways in Israeli settlement society.2

Consociational arrangements may, themselves, represent a form of federalism. Arend Lijphart and his colleagues, who have developed and applied the concept of consociationalism, have been engaged in dialogue with those of us committed to studying federalism over the past several years to identify similarities and differences between the two approaches and have found much that is similar.3 In sum, when we are dealing with federalism we are dealing with a phenomenon that is now so widespread that it is almost as pervasive as the nation-state itself. It is a phenomenon that supplements, modifies and redirects nation-states and governmental institutions within nation-states. Hence it is deserving of far more attention than it has received. One of the tasks of the Association is to encourage the attention federalism deserves. Our conferences are one way in which we seek to do so. Each is a working conference, that is to say, the people who participate in it all have been active in one way or another in exploring the issues of power-sharing, federalism and constitutional design along federal principles.

In addition to the benefits of face-to-face interchange and cross-fertilization, we seek to make the principal results of our conferences more widely available in book form. The first conference in Basle led to a book edited by Max Frenkel, then the director of the Joint Center for Federal and Regional Studies in that city, Foderalismus als Partnerschaft/Partnership in Federalism, the first statements of the idea of the theory and practice of cooperative federalism made available to the German-speaking world.4 Redesigning the State, our second book, was edited by Keith G. Banting and Richard Simeon and developed out of the conference at the Institute for Intergovernmental Relations at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario.5 It deals with constitutional change in contemporary federal and non-federal systems. The Association also sponsored the publication of William Stewart's Concepts of Federalism, a lexicon of federalism that defines each conceptualization of the term and gives its history.6

This, the third volume in the series, examines the state of the art and the state of the field in the study of the two principal dimensions of federalism -- constitutional design and power-sharing. The emphasis in this volume is on exploring the frontiers of federalist theory and practice. What new federal forms, devices and arrangements are being proposed and tested? What are the theories which either suggest or justify them? It focuses on the relationship between theory and empirical reality on a theoretical and comparative basis.

The essays in this volume are designed to contribute to the development of a political science not dependent on Jacobin, Marxian, or Weberian models of political analysis which have informed so much of social and hence political science over the past century but which, by their very nature, have great difficulty in dealing with the phenomena of federalism. This volume comes at a time when there is a real opening toward developing federalist modes of thought about political questions parallel to the Marxian-Jacobin-Weberian modes. Hence we wee it as an opportunity to articulate a number of the important political questions of our time within a theoretical framework, a language, and a set of thought hypotheses which most of the contributors has been hard at work developing over the years but which constantly need to be presented in more coherent form to the larger academic and intellectual communities, who, more often than not, do not see the importance of the questions we investigate because they are bound within a different conceptual system.

One of the advantages of the federalist approach is that it forces scholars and activists alike to concern themselves with the most mundane details of political activity and at the same time with the largest principles of human endeavor. Moreover, the federalist approach combines both theoretical and empirical analysis out of necessity since federalist theories are only useful when they measure up against reality, while understanding the realities of federalism requires an appropriate theoretical perspective. That interaction is very much evident in the essays included here.

An earlier conference of the Jerusalem Center developed a shorthand definition of federalism as the combination of self-rule and shared-rule.7 Constitutional design is what makes self-rule possible and power-sharing is the essence of shared-rule. In addressing both we address both sides of the equation. Doing so, we explore the development of an international system of federated states parallel to the conventional international system of politically sovereign states and the increased linkages among the two systems. This in turn relates to the emergence of new applications of federal principles through new-style confederations, federacies, associated states and the like.8

On another level two perennial questions of culture and structure are addressed. Is there a federal political culture? To what extent is such a political culture necessary for true federalism? What is the impact of federal structures on systems that have only adopted them as window-dressing, as in the Soviet bloc or in certain Third World countries? Obviously we cannot provide definitive answers to these question, but it is our hope that we have advanced the exploration by taking a cut at them in something analogous to the way a geologist or archeologist works with strata.

The first essay in this volume is by Vincent Ostrom, one of the principal federal theorists of our time, who applies his approach of methodological individualism to present "A Computational-Conceptual Logic for Federal Systems of Governance." Ostrom starts from the kind of individualism characteristic of the new science of politics of the 17th century as played out on the American scene and reflected in the American constitutional system. Ostrom, Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Government at Indiana University, is co-director of the Workshop on Political Theory and Policy Analysis, one of the major centers for the exploration of federalist theory today. It is no exaggeration to say that his work has transformed contemporary conceptions of local government organization and administration.

Ivo Duchacek, late Professor Emeritus of International Relations at the City University of New York and one of the leading scholars of international politics and constitutional design of our time, brings the empirical world of federal arrangements into focus in "Comparative Federalism: An Agenda for Additional Research." He suggests four concrete areas in particular need of further exploration: federal processes without federal institutions, federal political culture, coincidence of intra-federal and ethnic boundaries, and external roles of provinces and cities. He examines what has been explored in those four areas and what needs to be.

If Ostrom examines the "different conceptions [that] may be used to design, construct and maintain different social realities," offering an individualistic basis for federalism, Joseph Lanir, working out of a collectivist, or perhaps more correctly, an integral conception, gives us a case study of a different kind of federalist institution, the Israeli kibbutz, in "The Kibbutz as a Federative Socio-Political System." Dr. Lanir, a veteran member of Givat Brenner, one of Israel's largest and most important kibbutzim and one of the architects of kibbutz industry in Israel, an economic sector also organized on federal lines, has done pioneering work on federal principles in the kibbutz movement.

Moving back into the American individualist mode we have Robert M. Hawkins on "Power-Sharing in Municipal Governance," a look at federal arrangements in the local arena in the United States and how they have sought to integrate individualistic and communitarian perspectives in that country. Dr. Hawkins, the president of the Institute for Contemporary Studies in San Francisco and the Sequoia Institute in Sacramento and chairman of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, was one of the first to take Vincent Ostrom's theories of local constitutional design and apply them to the existing local government arena, in California.

Another dimension of federalist theory is the chapter by Efraim Torgovnik and Ela Preisler on "Effectiveness Assessment in Public Service Systems." In it they report on the use of parallel frameworks to assess effectiveness in public service systems, particularly local public service systems. It is the essence of their theory that evaluation should take place on two levels: the system level and the unit level. In their chapter they present their formula and how it was tested in examining a neighborhood decentralization effort in a Jerusalem neighborhood, Neve Yaakov, undertaken by the Jerusalem Municipality. Efraim Torgovnik is a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Professor of Political Science at Tel Aviv University. He is one of the foremost students of urban politics and government in Israel. Dr. Ela Preisler was his graduate student when this project was conducted. The chapter was previously published in Human Relations, Vol. 40, No. 2 (1987), pp. 103-118.

Turning to another issue, John Kincaid analyzes "Sharing Power in the Federal System: The American States in World Affairs," to introduce our exploration of the integration of parallel systems in the international arena. Dr. Kincaid, a Fellow of the Center for the Study of Federalism at Temple University and Professor of Political Science at North Texas University, is co-editor of Publius. He is presently serving as Executive Director of the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. In his study of the American states in foreign relations, he is continuing decades of work of the Center for the Study of Federalism, begun by its predecessor, the Workshop in American Federalism at the University of Chicago in the 1950s. He is presently completing a major project funded by the Ford Foundation on this subject.

A different kind of intersection of federal arrangements in the international system is described by this writer in "The Federal Dimensions of State-Diaspora Relations: The Case of Israel and the Jewish People." In this essay I explore what may be an emerging form of federalism on the international scene, the state-diaspora relationship, which combines the realities of contemporary statehood with the realities of the persistence of primordial groups -- ethnic, religious, or ethno-religious. The essay examines the phenomenon and the institutional arrangements developing to provide for its governance within the contemporary political arena.

Twin questions of how is political integration on a federal basis different from other forms of political integration and to what extent can federal principles and arrangements be used to advance political integration are addressed by Andre Eschet-Schwartz in "Can the Swiss Federal Experience Serve as a Model of Federal Integration?" Dr. Eschet-Schwartz, who lectures at the University of Haifa and is associated with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, looks at the history of one of the world's classic federal systems to trace the important constitutional elements in its movement from league to confederation to federation over a period of nearly 600 years. Switzerland is often used as an example of a hard case of political integration because of its multiple diversities -- linguistic (German, French, Italian and Romansch), religious (Protestants and Catholics), economic (urban commercial and rural), and political (urban oligarchies and rural democracies) that nevertheless managed over the course of centuries to build a stable democratic federal republic that has taken on idyllic status in the eyes of much of the world because of its peace and prosperity. His account is both hopeful and sobering in that it shows how possible it is to use federal principles and arrangements to achieve the political integration of one-time antagonists but that it takes patience and the passage of generations to do so.

Marcel Korn of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs writes about "Free Association: Political Integration as a Trade-Off," a wide-ranging comparative examination of asymmetrical political integration utilizing federal principles and arrangements. In doing so he reports on the results of a major study of the subject that he conducted under the auspices of the Jerusalem Center. The discussion by Hillel Frisch of the Jerusalem Center of "Polities with Compound Conflicts" is another product of the JCPA's continuing study of that problem. His essay examines the possibility of federal solutions to the Israel-Palestinian Arab conflict in light of the possible uses of federal solutions in other cases where there are polities with compound and cross-cutting conflicts.

Shmuel Sandler examines de facto "Joint Control and Power-Sharing in the Israeli-Palestinian Context." Dr. Sandler, a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Senior Lecturer in Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University, spent much of the last decade studying questions he addresses in this chapter as part of the Jerusalem Center's larger project exploring federal solutions to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Dr. Sandler explores the difficult practical question of power-sharing among two unequal entities. This chapter was originally published in Publius: The Journal of Federalism 18 (Spring 1988).

Benjamin Akzin, the doyen of Israeli political scientists, summarizes his understanding of the present place of federalism on the world political scene in "Where Do We Stand?," the book's epilogue. The late Professor Akzin, Israel's first professor of political science, was an internationally recognized expert in problems of ethnicity, states and nations. Here he draws on the accumulated wisdom of a long career in Eastern and Central Europe, the United States, and Israel to strike an appropriately cautionary note on the possibility of successfully applying federal solutions to current political problems in situations not properly developed for such solutions.

The essays in this collection reflect the need for further development of federal theory and to clarify and harmonize federal terminology, in light of these new directions in which federalism is moving. In this, as in every other field, as we advance knowledge, we discover how much we do not know. This is especially true in the case of unconventional uses and expressions of federal principles, the principal concern to which this volume is devoted. The concern here has been not merely to report data regarding the success or failure of particular federal experiments, or even to discuss how federal principles might be applied to new situations, but to think of all of that within the context of the larger concerns of federal theory regarding political, civic, social, and economic organization.


1. I have explored this phenomenon more fully in Daniel J. Elazar, Exploring Federalism (University, Ala.: University of Alabama Press, 1987), Chapter 2.

2. See Daniel J. Elazar and Chaim Kalchheim, eds. Local Government in Israel (Lanham, Md.: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and University Press of America, 1988).

3. See "Federalism and Consociationalism," special issue of Publius, the Journal of Federalism, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Spring 1985).

4. Max Frenkel, ed., Foderalismus als Partnerschaft/Partnership in Federalism (Bern: Peter Lang, 1977).

5. Keith G. Banting and Richard Simeon, Redesigning the State; Politics of Constitutional Change (Toronto: Macmillan, 1986).

6. William Stewart, Concepts of Federalism (Lanham, Md.: Center for the Study of Federalism and University Press of America, 1984).

7. See Daniel J. Elazar, ed., Self-Rule/Shared Rule (Lanham, Md.: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and University Press of America, 1985).

8. Cf. Daniel J. Elazar, ed., Federalism and Political Integration (Lanham, Md.: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and University Press of America, 1985).

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