Dismantling the Modern State? The Changing Structural Foundations of Federalism
Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, Vol. 25, Summer 1998
Posted: 3 Nov 1998
The constitutional concept of federalism has often been tied to nineteenth century judicial doctrine. When those doctrines were abandoned by the Roosevelt Court, federalism effectively lost constitutional meaning. Theories of federalism focusing on questions of constitutional authority were replaced with theories of intergovernmental relations focusing on the pragmatic administration of public policy. This paper illuminates our understanding of the "political constitution" through a reconsideration of twentieth century changes in federalism. At both a descriptive and a normative level, the overall structure of federalism responds to broad social and ideological forces. Centralizing and decentralizing political practices are structured and constrained by such forces. The paper examines the causes and dimensions of early twentieth century centralization in changing beliefs about government administration, the political response to economic consolidation, and perceptions of the moral value and political efficacy of local government. The paper then examines recent changes in each of these variables and their likely importance for American federalism. Fundamental constitutional changes need not be linked to doctrinal changes or emerge from mobilized popular deliberation, but can be the gradual response to other social and political decisions.
Note: This is a description of the article and is not the actual abstract.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation