Christmas came early for federalism geeks


I’m shocked that I didn’t learn until now that Ronald L. Watts’ classic Comparing Federal Systems in the 1990s has been updated. From the publisher’s blurb for Comparing Federal Systems, Third Edition:

At present there are twenty-five functioning federations worldwide, which contain over forty percent of the world’s population. A distinctive feature of federalism is that it has taken a variety of forms, including new variants and innovations. In Comparing Federal Systems Watts provides a clear analysis of the design and operation of a wide range of federations.

Fully updated, this third edition encompasses reference to a wider range of federations and federal experiments. Included are mature federations such as Switzerland, Canada, Austria, Germany, and India; emergent federations such as Mexico, Malaysia, Pakistan, Spain, Brazil, Belgium, Russia, Argentina, Ethiopia, South Africa, Nigeria, and Venezuela; micro-federations such as Micronesia, Belau, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Comoros; federal-confederal hybrids such as the United Arab Emirates and the European Union; and post-conflict federal experiments such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sudan, Iraq, and Congo. Federations that have failed are also discussed.

Watts looks at interactions between social diversity and political institutions, the distribution of powers and finances, processes contributing to flexibility or rigidity in adjustment, the extent of internal symmetry or asymmetry, the character of representation in federal institutions, the role of constitutions and courts, provisions for constitutional rights and succession, the degree of centralization and non-centralization, and the pathology of federations.”

Watts has long been one of the leading figures at Queen’s University’s Institute for Intergovernmental Relations and his earlier books have been hugely helpful to me as I try to make sense of our federation and try to figure out how it compares to others. I’m always a little sad when I run into somebody who likes to think about federalism but who isn’t familiar with Watts’ work. I’m really looking forward to getting a copy of his new book.

Filed under:

Christmas came early for federalism geeks

  1. Is it sad that I ordered my copy three minutes after I read this?

  2. I’m always a little sad when I run into somebody who likes to think about federalism.

  3. I work down the hall from Professor Watts at the IIGR at Queen’s…I’d like to say I work with him, but, well, not quite there yet.

    Guy’s a genius, and so absolutely friendly.

  4. Being largely uneducated and living out here in the boonies far from civilization, art galleries, or universities with books comparing political systems around the world, allow me to apologize in advance if I should ever inadvertently make any comment on federalism whatsoever.

  5. I have worked with Ron. I was the IT guy Policy Studies and IIGR for a couple of years. He’s a hell of a nice guy as well as a genius. I learned so much just shooting the breeze with him while I worked on his PC.

  6. Wait a minute: Sudan is a POST-conflict federal experiment? Is there an ethics oversight committee that can call the whole experiment thing off? Or is there maybe a new definition of “post-” that slipped past my public-school education?

Sign in to comment.