Sociology Index


Asymmetrical Federalism, Confederation

Centripetal federalism is a federal system in which there is a strong federal government and weaker provincial governments. The opposite of centripetal federalism is centrifugal federalism, where power would be dispersed from the centre to the provincial governments. Federalism is asymmetrical where a federal system of government does not accord precisely the same legal powers and areas of jurisdiction to all its constituent states or provinces. Federalism can act in two directions: There can be a centrifugally acting federalism, its direction is away from the center in order to achieve diversity in unity by taking away power from the general government to strengthen the parts.

Centripetal federalism strives, on the other hand, to unite separate entities without sacrificing the autonomy of the members. During the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, federalism had a centrifugal tendency. After the creation of the national states in this area, the direction of federalism is centripetal. Federalism could be called also the federal principle or the federal idea. It explains more than just the legalistic and institutional aspects of this political method. Here are the more enlightening definitions of federalism:

Lang explains federalism by saying: "Its aim is diversity within unity and pointing out that federalism's transcendent or universal character penetrates, but does not absorb. The interaction of each federated part creates an organic unity that avoids a chaos of the dynamic parts. There is an interdependence between the particular and the universal. A federal polity is not an aggregate of its component members, it is not the sum of its local and general governments, it is a synthesis which is greater than, and different from the congregation of its parts. Since the federal structure must rest upon consent as well as a collective purpose, it cannot be imperially imposed. Federalism is simultaneously a political technique and a social synthesis; if is a method, an ideal, a mechanism and a symbol."

The knowledge of the federal theory can be helpful, and the lack of its proper understanding was sometimes the major stumbling block on the road towards the East Central European aspirations for a federal union. But even more important is to understand what are the basic preconditions which are necessary to such plans. These preconditions can be the only foundations on which a federation can be built, and in our case, without these foundations all attempts of unity in this troubled and explosive area, which is so richly endowed by nature's gifts, have little or no chance of success.