Sub-Federal State-Building and the Origins of Federalism: A Comparison of Austria, Germany and Switzerland

  • Gerhard LehmbruchEmail author
Part of the Comparative Territorial Politics book series (COMPTPOL)


This chapter accounts for federal institution-building based on the concept of sequencing. It argues that state-building processes on the level of constituent units that preceded nation-state formation encouraged a more functional rather than dual allocation of powers. Inspired by historical institutionalism, this long-term historical perspective illustrates diverging federal development paths between European federations (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) on the one hand and Anglo-Saxon settler societies (USA, Canada, Australia) on the other. Furthermore, the constituent units’ infrastructural capacities at the time of federalization shaped the historical development paths that Germany, Austria and Switzerland took and explain the considerable variation in autonomy of the constituent units. While Swiss Cantons dispose of high authority, Austrian Länder are much weaker and German Länder take on a middle position.


Federalization Historical institutionalism Sequencing Institutional capacities Comparison 



This chapter is a revised and abbreviated version of a manuscript originally prepared for the 2nd ECPR General Conference, Marburg 18–21 September 2003. I am grateful to the editors for useful comments and suggestions and to Jörg Broschek for substantively updating and compiling the final version of this manuscript.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of KonstanzKonstanzGermany

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