political concept that advocates a federal state

Federalism is a mode of government that combines a general government (the central or "federal" government) with regional governments (provincial, state, cantonal, territorial, or other sub-unit governments) in a single political system, dividing the powers between the two.


  • Among the fundamental likeness between the Revolutionary Republicans and the Anarchists is the recognition that the little must precede the great; that the local must be the basis of the general; that there can be a free federation only when there are free communities to federate; that the spirit of the latter is carried into the councils of the former, and a local tyranny may thus become an instrument for general enslavement.
  • The only social system that can possibly meet the diverse needs of society, while still promoting solidarity on the widest scale, is one that allows people to freely associate on the basis of common needs and interests. Federalism emphasizes autonomy and decentralization, fosters solidarity and complements groups’ efforts to be as self-sufficient as possible. Groups can then be expected to cooperate as long as they derive mutual benefit. Contrary to the Capitalist legal system and its contracts, if such benefits are not felt to be mutual in an Anarchist society, any group will have the freedom to dissociate. In this manner a flexible and self-regulating social organism will be created, always ready to meet new needs by new organizations and adjustments. Federalism is not a type of Anarchism, but it is an essential part of Anarchism. It is the joining of groups and peoples for political and economic survival and livelihood.
  • The federalist adventure, so assured in its idealism, had always required the honouring of Rousseau’s social contract, a consensual relationship between the state and the citizen. Europe’s diverse peoples would support union, but only insofar as it did not infringe their perceived character and way of life. Europe’s booming cities might be able to absorb change, but this was not true of formerly industrial provinces, rural areas and ageing populations. Britain’s pro-Brexit voters–heavily provincial, rural and older–reflected this divide. Parties variously labelled right-wing, nationalist or populist gained strength in most if not all European states, responding to a call for voters to ‘take back control’ of their political and social environment. Most alarmingly, the 2016 World Values Survey reported that ‘fewer than half’ of respondents born in the seventies and eighties believed it was ‘essential to live in a country that is governed democratically’. In Germany, Spain, Japan and America, between twenty and forty per cent would prefer ‘a strong leader who does not have to bother with parliaments or elections’.
    • Simon Jenkins, A Short History of Europe: From Pericles to Putin (2018)
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