What is Federalism?

  1. Federalism means sharing of power among the levels i.e. central, state, regional, and local governments.  
  2. It refers to a system of government in which the power is divided between a central authority and various constituent units of the country. 

Types of government structures

Unitary Government

Federal Government

1. There is only one level of government. In the case of sub-units, they are subordinate to the National govt. There are two or more levels of governments i.e. National, State and Local govt.
2. There is no division of powers . The Central or National govt has all the powers. There is division of powers between different levels of the government.
3. State govt or subunits are answerable to the Central govt. State govt is not answerable to the Central or National govt.
4. All powers are with Central govt . There is no separate jurisdiction for the sub-units. The central govt can grant them powers and take back at any time. Jurisdiction of each govt i.e. State and Central is specified in the constitution and cannot be changed unilaterally.
5. The Central govt alone can make constitutional amendment like an ordinary law. Constitutional amendment cannot be made without the consent of the State govt.
6. Courts do not enjoy powers of safe-guarding /interpreting the constitution. Courts such as Supreme Court of India safeguards and interprets the constitution .
7. Sources of revenue are controlled by the central govt. Sources of revenue are divided among different levels of the government.
8. Examples- Sri Lanka, UK Examples- India, USA

Features of Federalism

  1. Two or more levels (also known as tiers ) of government.
  2. The same citizens are governed by various levels of government , but each level has exclusive jurisdiction over areas of law, taxation, and administration.
  3. The jurisdictions , i.e. the area over which someone has legal authority defined in terms of geographical boundaries or in terms of certain kinds of subjects , of the specific level is specified in the constitution.
  4. It is not possible for one level of government to unilaterally alter the fundamental rules of the constitution . Both governmental levels must approve of such adjustments.
  5. Courts have the authority to interpret the constitution and the authority of various governmental levels. If disagreement s occur between several levels of government as they use their distinct powers, the highest court serves as a mediator.
  6. For each level of government to maintain its financial independence, the sources of revenue are clearly identified .

Objectives of Federalism

The federal system has two main objectives . They are as follows-

  1. Safeguarding and promotion of the unity of the country.
  2. Accommodate the regional diversity of the country.

Routes of Federation Formation

What are the different types of federations ?

There are two routes that have been adopted for the formation of federations in the world-


‘Coming Together’ Federations

‘Holding Together’ Federations

The first route or form of federations are formed by independent states which come together on their own to form a federation.

Under the second route , a large country decides to divide its power between the constituent States and the national government.

The object is to form a bigger unit so that by pooling sovereignty and retaining identity , they can increase their security.

The objective is to have a powerful central government to maintain unity in diversity.

In this category of federations, all the constituent States usually have equal power and are strong vis-a-vis the federal government.

The federal government typically has more authority over the states. Different constituent parts of the federation frequently have differing powers . Special powers are granted to some units.

  • For example , In India, some states may have special provisions.
Examples- USA, Switzerland, Australia Examples - India, Spain, and Belgium.


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Davneet Singh

Davneet Singh has done his B.Tech from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He has been teaching from the past 14 years. He provides courses for Maths, Science, Social Science, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science at Teachoo.