Centralism and Federalism

Both Centralism and Federalism are two political systems.

Where the first retains the state a certain sovereignty with autonomy of administrative and political decisions, while the second all power rests with the state

 government Centralized Decentralized
  • Pure centralism
  • Centralism with administrative decentralization
  • Centralism with political and administrative decentralization
  • Symmetrical Federalism
  • Asymmetric federalism
  • Monaco
  • France (least decentralized European country)
  • Venezuela
  • USA
  • Canada
  • Brazil
  • Germany
  • Argentina
  • Spain
  • Mexico

What is federalism:

The federalism is a definition that has different connotations. They range from a neutral technique of organizing state institutions to a general ideology that characterizes the way of living and thinking of the entire society.

In practice, some see federalism as an ideology in itself, for others it is an institutional system capable of allowing all democratic ideologies to flourish.

All over the world, federations cover a wide variety of forms, from a highly centralized system to a quasi-confederation, with many different means of organizing democratic life within them. However, the common denominator of all approaches to federalism is the attempt to strike a balance between interests that are seen as divergent.


All states and their citizens have the right to participate in decision-making at the federal level. The balance between the federation and the member states is reflected in a bicameral legislative branch: a chamber representing the people of the federation as a whole, of composition proportional to the number of citizens of the individual member states, while the second chamber is composed of representatives of the Member States. Laws must be adopted by a majority of the representatives of both houses.

Types of federalism

There are two types of federalism:
* Symmetric federalism: There must be equal powers for each territory or agency. For example USA
* Asymmetric federalism: It must be adjusted to the needs of each territory. Eg. Canada.

Characteristics of federalism

* The functions of the government are established through the Constitution approved by the States.
* It is the central government added to the lower units that make the decisions of the country with respect to public services and other issues.
* The geographical division of the territory determines the division of powers.
* The Constitution is modified by the Supreme Court of Justice.

Advantages and disadvantages of federalism

* Government authorities are close to citizens and can see their problems.
* There is facility for the application, monitoring and evaluation of the country’s government policies.
* Sometimes the economic resources of the state are not enough for the needs of citizens.
* The effectiveness of administrative and political actions may be affected if there is not enough coordination in the country.


In federal systems , each level is autonomous within its own sphere of competence : in its own sphere, no government should be subjected to a higher level. The primacy of federal law over federal law applies only to powers attributed to the federal level.

When the federation does not have the powers to intervene, the federated legislation obtains primacy. This makes the federation different from the unitary states, which can impose their sovereign will on the regions. This makes it a much more integrated parallel than a confederation or an international organization, where in the end the member states have the last word.

What is centralism:

The centralism is a political doctrine where the system of government is based on the concentration of political power and administrative functions. All power is concentrated in the government. In general, this type of government is due because the state does not manage to ensure the well-being of all citizens due to the lack of economic funds. The State is responsible for the exercise and administration of public rights.

Types of centralism

* Pure centralism: completely centralized states. For example: Monaco
* Centralism with administrative decentralization. Politically centralized but administratively decentralized states. For example
: France * Centralism with political and administrative decentralization. Political and administrative decentralized government. For example: Venezuela.

Characteristics of centralism

* Political power has no territorial division .
* The country has a central government that is in charge of both political and administrative aspects.
* Many times the central government does not take into account the customs and traditions of each locality.
* In all localities there is state action.

Advantages and disadvantages of centralism

* The responsibilities fall on the government because it has the economic resources of the state.
* Political and administrative decisions are expedited because they should not discuss decisions with government entities.
* It is difficult for the state to make decisions because it lost sovereignty.

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