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
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
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