Federalism, Subsidiarity, and the Role of Local Governments in an Age of Global Multilevel Governance

41 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2010 Last revised: 27 Jun 2011

See all articles by Yishai Blank

Yishai Blank

Tel Aviv University - Buchmann Faculty of Law


One of the hallmarks of our age is a realization - a product of objective discoveries and of ideological transformations - that a growing number of contemporary problems and challenges require decision-making and implementation at different territorial spheres and by different governmental (and political) levels. Immigration, climate change, labor standards, and the economic crisis are high-profile examples of the fact that it is no longer possible - nor is it desirable - to think, decide, and implement rules and policies only at the federal level or at the state level or at the local level; rather, it has become necessary to govern them at many levels of government - sub-national, national, and supra-national - simultaneously. Yet, our legal systems and political institutions have not yet adapted themselves to this realization and they do not reflect it fully or sufficiently. Furthermore, as I argue in this Article, the two most dominant political theories that are supposed to offer a solution to this growing need of, and belief in, multilevel governance - federalism and subsidiarity - are inadequate and incapable of doing so. And while both theories are invaluable sources for inspiration for the creation of a legal (and political) system that will better fit our changing realization regarding the multi-spheral (global, national, regional, and local) nature of human conflicts and contemporary challenges, I claim two things regarding them: first, that they should be understood as distinct from each other (despite the fact that they are often confused and not theorized as distinct political theories); and second, that subsidiarity is better fit for the task of articulating multilevel governance, even if only as a tool for loosening the grip of federalism over our political and legal theory.

Keywords: federalism, subsidiarity, local governments, global multilevel governance

Suggested Citation

Blank, Yishai, Federalism, Subsidiarity, and the Role of Local Governments in an Age of Global Multilevel Governance. Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 37, p. 509, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1724574

Yishai Blank (Contact Author)

Tel Aviv University - Buchmann Faculty of Law ( email )

Ramat Aviv
Tel Aviv 69978, IL

HOME PAGE: http://en-law.tau.ac.il/profile/yblank

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