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The introductory article gives, from a political science point of view, an overview of important aspects of comparative federalism. It starts by reviewing the most relevant concepts and theories of federalism. The authors then propose a historical and institutionalist concept by defining federalism as a complex and dynamic configuration of institutionalised rule systems. The following sections summarise findings and hypotheses about the historical development of federal states, about the intermediation of societal interests and about policy-making and the performance of government in federal systems. Based on these considerations, the structure and content of the volume at hand is explained. The article ends with some comments on the theoretical and practical relevance of comparative research on federalism and federal states.
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