Federalism under unitary pressure

Authored by: Arthur Benz , Jörg Broschek

Routledge Handbook of Regionalism and Federalism

Print publication date:  May  2013
Online publication date:  July  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415566216
eBook ISBN: 9780203395974
Adobe ISBN: 9781136727627


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Since its formation in the 19th century, the German state has been more hybrid than federal. For this reason, scholars including Germany in comparative studies on federalism, like Kenneth Wheare (1963: 26) or William Riker (1964), expressed their doubts about its federal nature. Later, Heidrun Abromeit (1992) characterized the Federal Republic of Germany as a unitary state in disguise, lacking all basic attributes of federalism. Although there are reasons for this categorization, it overestimates centralist forces and structures and underrates the interplay of centralization and decentralization in the allocation of powers, of integration and fragmentation in political structuring, and of uniformity and regional diversity in policy making. This dynamic of contradictory forces can be traced back to the long history of German federalism and state formation. It unfolded during the last decades in changing patterns of policy making, the evolution of the party system and in institutional reform, when trends towards diversity, fragmentation and decentralization became stronger within a continuing ‘unitary federalism’.

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