Federalism and Democracy: Beyond the U.S. Model

  • Alfred Stepan


For those of us interested in the spread and consolidation of democracy, whether as policy makers, human rights activists, political analysts, or democratic theorists, there is a greater need than ever to reconsider the potential risks and benefits of federalism. The greatest risk is that federal arrangements can offer opportunities for ethnic nationalists to mobilize their resources. This risk is especially grave when elections are introduced in the subunits of a formerly nondemocratic federal polity prior to democratic countrywide elections and in the absence of democratic countrywide parties. Of the nine states that once made up communist Europe, six were unitary and three were federal. The six unitary states are now five states (East Germany has reunited with the Federal Republic), while the three federal states—Yugoslavia, the USSR, and Czechoslovakia—are now 22 independent states. Most of postcommunist Europe’s ethnocracies and ethnic bloodshed have occurred within these postfederal states.


Federal State Unitary State Federal System Lower House Exclusive Competence 
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Copyright information

© Dimitrios Karmis and Wayne Norman 2005

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  • Alfred Stepan

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