Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Exploring authority migration in multilevel architectures: A historical-institutionalist framework

Abstract

This article develops a framework for analyzing the dynamics of multilevel politics inspired by historical institutionalism. It suggests that this approach has much potential to re-focus an increasingly diversified scholarly landscape, comprising fields like European integration, comparative federalism and regionalization, by promoting a more nuanced understanding of the varieties of institutional dynamics in multilevel architectures. The article seeks to make a threefold contribution. First, it conceptualizes multilevel architectures as an institutional outcome of political restructuring which are subject to different patterns of authority migration over time. Second, it proposes typological criteria to systematically compare such patterns of institutional change by distinguishing their direction, pace and depth. Third, it speculates on the mechanisms that can explain divergent patterns of authority migration. Overall, it is argued that the historical ordering of institutional linkages between territorial authorities leads to differently composed multilevel architectures, which in turn shape the patterns and pathways of authority migration at later points in time. Case studies from North America and Europe illustrate the value of this analytical framework for the comparative investigation of continuity and change in and of multilevel systems.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Figure 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    For important exceptions see in particular Hooghe and Marks (2003), Hooghe et al (2010), Piattoni (2009), Skelcher (2005).

  2. 2.

    Unsurprisingly, it were often British scholars like Jim Bulpitt (2008), R.A.W. Rhodes (1988) or, more recently, Jonathan Bradbury (2006) and James Mitchell (2009) who pointed to this problem, suggesting alternative types such as the ‘union state’ or the ‘differentiated polity’. Similarly, German scholars have highlighted the limits of characterizing German federalism as centralized. The usurpation of most competences through the federal level has not necessarily led to more hierarchy as the Lander were able to simultaneously extent their influence in federal decision making. German federalism is, therefore, unitary (‘unitarisch’) rather than centralized (Hesse, 1962). More generally, as Rokkan (1999, p. 219) has observed, there is no direct fit between the center-periphery structure, the degree of ethnic or linguistic unification and the institutional outlook of political systems in Western Europe.

  3. 3.

    Ideas that mediate between material and rather exogenous social structures on the one, and institutions on the other hand might be considered as another key layer for the interpretative construction of territorial regimes.

  4. 4.

    The distinction between shared-rule and self-rule is borrowed from Daniel Elazar (1987).

  5. 5.

    For a related but not identical attempt to boil down the varieties of institutional configurations see Gerring et al (2011), who distinguish between direct and indirect rule.

  6. 6.

    Here, de-institutionalization will not be treated as a third mode of institutional change. De-institutionalization refers to the deconstruction of authority relationships, like in the case of secession.

  7. 7.

    I consider governments, political parties and bureaucracies as most important collective actors that either seek to shift authority from one level to another (as entrepreneurial agents) or to repel such efforts (as status quo defending actors).

  8. 8.

    In practice, the vertical redistribution of authority does not necessarily imply a zero-sum game. Often both levels of authority retain certain powers in a field despite the transfer of authority, which leads to concurrency or overlapping jurisdictions.

  9. 9.

    It is also important to note that authority shifts are not necessarily unidirectional. While there might be an overall trend for either direction under changing historical context conditions (upwards in the Westphalian context and downwards in the post-Westphalian context), there are often developments working in the opposite direction in individual cases. In Canada, for example, dynamics have been unfolding in a cyclical rather than unidirectional pattern. Moreover, despite the current decentralist turn, we also observe significant processes of centralization like in the EU or, as Dietmar Braun (2011) has shown, in some consolidated federal systems that tend to evolve towards ‘over-centralization’.

  10. 10.

    It should be noted that especially displacement and layering are not necessarily limited to capture patterns of gradual institutional change. They can also abruptly occur as part of a critical juncture.

  11. 11.

    As Capoccia and Kelemen (2007, p. 352) point out, change is not an inevitable outcome of a critical juncture: ‘If an institution enters a critical juncture, in which several options are possible, the outcome may involve the restoration of the pre–critical juncture status quo’.

References

  1. Ackerman, B. (1991) We the People, Volume 1: Foundations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  2. Amoretti, U.M. (2011) Italy: Increasing decentralization, decreasing asymmetry. In: F. Requejo and K.-J. Nagel (eds.) Federalism Beyond Federations: Asymmetry and Processes of Resymmetrization in Europe. Franham, UK: Ashgate, pp. 61–80.

  3. Bakvis, H., Baier, G. and Brown, D. (2009) Contested Federalism: Certainty and Ambiguity in the Canadian Federation. Don Mills, Canada: Oxford University Press.

  4. Baldi, B. and Baldini, G. (2014) Decentralization in Italy and the troubles of federalization. A long-term analysis. Regional and Federal Studies 24 (1): 87–108.

  5. Banting, K.G. (2005) Canada: Nation-building in federal welfare state. In: H. Obinger, S. Leibfried and F. Castles (eds.) Federalism and the Welfare State. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 88–137.

  6. Bartolini, S. (2005) Restructuring Europe: Centre Formation, System Building and Political Structuring Between the Nation State and the European Union. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  7. Béland, D. (2009) Ideas, institutions and policy change. Journal of European Public Policy 16 (5): 701–718.

  8. Béland, D. and Lecours, A. (2008) Nationalism and Social Policy: The Politics of Territorial Solidarity. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  9. Bensel, R.F. (1990) Yankee Leviathan: The Origins of Central State Authority in America, 1859–1877. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

  10. Benz, A. (1999) From unitary to asymmetric federalism in Germany: Taking stock after 50 years. Publius: The Journal of Federalism 29 (4): 55–78.

  11. Benz, A. (2011) Escaping joint-decision traps: National and supranational experiences compared. In: G. Falkner (ed.) The EU’s Decision Traps: Comparing Policies. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 199–216.

  12. Benz, A. and Broschek, J. (eds.) (2013) Federal Dynamics: Continuity, Change, and the Varieties of Federalism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  13. Blyth, M. (2002) Great Transformations. Economic Ideas and Institutional Change in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  14. Bogdanor, V. (2001) Devolution in the United Kingdom. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  15. Bradbury, J. (2006) Territory and power revisited: Theorising territorial politics in the United Kingdom after devolution. Political Studies 54 (3): 559–582.

  16. Braun, D. (2000) Public Policy and Federalism. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

  17. Braun, D. (2011) How centralized federations avoid over-centralization. Regional & Federal Studies 21 (1): 35–54.

  18. Broschek, J. (2012) Historical institutionalism and the varieties of federalism in Germany and Canada. Publius: The Journal of Federalism 42 (4): 662–687.

  19. Bullpit, J. (2008) Territory and Power in the United Kingdom. Colchester, UK: ECPR Press, [first: 1983].

  20. Bulmer, S. (2009) Politics in time meets the politics of time: Historical institutionalism and the EU timescape. Journal of European Public Policy 16 (2): 307–324.

  21. Capoccia, G. and Kelemen, R.D. (2007) The study of critical junctures: Theory, narrative, and counterfactuals in historical institutionalism. World Politics 59 (3): 341–369.

  22. Caporaso, J.A. (2000) Changes in the westphalian order: Territory, public authority, and sovereignty. International Studies Review 2 (2): 1–28.

  23. Deschouwer, K. (2009) The Politics of Belgium: Governing a Divided Society. Houndsmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

  24. Elazar, D. (1987) Exploring Federalism. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.

  25. Fabbrini, S. (2007) Compound Democracies: Why the United States and Europe Are Becoming Similar. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  26. Falleti, T. and Lynch, J. (2009) Context and causal mechanisms in political analysis. Comparative Political Studies 42 (9): 1143–1166.

  27. Farrell, H. and Héritier, A. (2007) Introduction: Contested competences in the European union. West European Politics 30 (2): 227–243.

  28. Ferrera, M. (2005) The Boundaries of Welfare: European Integration and the New Spatial Politics of Social Protection. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  29. Fossum, J.E. and Menéndez, A.J. (2011) The Constitution’s Gift: A Constitutional Theory for a Democratic European Union. Boulder, CO: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

  30. Gerber, E.R. and Kollman, K. (2004) Introduction – authority migration: Defining an emerging research agenda. Political Science & Politics 37 (3): 397–401.

  31. Gerring, J. (2012) Mere description. British Journal of Political Science 42 (4): 721–746.

  32. Gerring, J., Ziblatt, D., Van Gorp, J. and Arevalo, J. (2011) An institutional theory of direct and indirect rule. World Politics 63 (3): 377–433.

  33. Gibson, E. (2012) Boundary Control: Subnational Authoritarianism in Federal Democracies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

  34. Hesse, K. (1962) Der Unitarische Bundesstaat. Karlsruhe, Germany: Müller.

  35. Hooghe, L. and Marks, G. (2003) Unraveling the central state, but how? Types of multi-level governance. American Political Science Review 97 (2): 233–243.

  36. Hooghe, L., Marks, G. and Schakel, A.H. (2010) The Rise of Regional Authority: A Comparative Study of 42 Democracies (1950–2006). London: Routledge.

  37. Hueglin, T.O. and Fenna, A. (2006) Comparative Federalism. A Systematic Inquiry. Toronto, Canada: Broadview Press.

  38. Jeffery, C. and Wincott, D. (2010) Beyond methodological nationalism: The challenge of territorial Politics. In: C. Hay (ed.) New Directions in Political Science: Responding to the Challenges of an Interdependent World. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 167–188.

  39. Johnson, K.S. (2007) Governing the American State: Congress and the New Federalism, 1877–1929. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  40. Keating, M. (2007) The Government of Scotland: Public Policy Making after Devolution. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press.

  41. Keating, M. (2008) Thirty years of territorial politics. West European Politics 31 (1–2): 60–81.

  42. King, D. and Lieberman, R.C. (2009) Ironies of state building: A comparative perspective on the American State. World Politics 61 (3): 547–588.

  43. LaCroix, A.L. (2010) The Ideological Origins of American Federalism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  44. Lieberman, Robert C. (2002) Ideas, institutions, and political order: Explaining political change. American Political Science Review 96 (4): 697–712.

  45. Loughlin, J. (2009) The ‘hybrid’ state: Reconfiguring territorial governance in Western Europe. Perspectives on European Politics and Society 10 (1): 51–68.

  46. Mahoney, J. and Thelen, K. (eds.) (2010) Explaining Institutional Change: Ambiguity, Agency, and Power. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

  47. Mitchell, J. (2009) Devolution in the UK. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

  48. Moravcsik, A. (1993) Preferences and power in the European community: A liberal intergovernmentalist approach. Journal of Common Market Studies 31 (4): 473–524.

  49. Olsen, J.P. (2009) Change and continuity: An institutional approach to institutions of democratic government. European Political Science Review 1 (1): 3–32.

  50. Orren, K. and Skowronek, S. (2004) The Search for American Political Development. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

  51. Parsons, C. (2007) How to Map Arguments in Political Science. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  52. Piattoni, S. (2009) Multi‐level governance: A historical and conceptual analysis. Journal of European Integration 31 (2): 163–180.

  53. Pierson, P. (1996) The path to European integration: A historical institutionalist analysis. Comparative Political Studies 29 (2): 123–163.

  54. Pierson, P. (2004) Politics in Time: History, Institutions, and Social Analysis. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  55. Rhodes, R.A.W. (1988) Beyond Westminster and Whitehall. The Sub-central Governments of Britain. Abingdon, UK: Taylor and Francis.

  56. Rittberger, B. (2009) The historical origins of the EU’s system of representation. Journal of European Public Policy 16 (1): 43–61.

  57. Rokkan, S. (1999) State Formation, Nation-Building, and Mass Politics in Europe: The Theory of Stein Rokkan, In: P. Flora and S. Kuhnle (eds.) Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  58. Rokkan, S. and Urwin, D. (1983) Economy, Territory, Identity: Politics of West European Peripheries. London: Sage.

  59. Salines, M., Glöckler, G. and Truchlewski, Z. (2012) Existential crisis, incremental response: The Eurozone’s dual institutional evolution 2007–2011. Journal of European Public Policy 19 (5): 665–681.

  60. Sandholtz, W. and Stone Sweet, A. (eds.) (1998) European Integration and Supranational Governance. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  61. Scharpf, F.W. (1988) The joint-decision trap: Lessons from German federalism and European integration. Public Administration 66 (3): 239–278.

  62. Scharpf, F.W. (1999) Governing in Europe: Effective and Democratic? Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  63. Scharpf, F.W. (2009) Föderalismusreform. Kein Ausweg aus der Politikverflechtungsfalle? Frankfurt a.M., Germany: Campus.

  64. Schütze, R. (2003) Dynamic integration – article 308 EC and legislation ‘in the course of the operation of the common market’: A review essay. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 23 (2): 333–344.

  65. Schmidt, V. (2010) Taking ideas and discourse seriously: Explaining change through discoursive institutionalism as the fourth new institutionalism. European Political Science Review 2 (1): 1–25.

  66. Sheingate, A. (2014) Institutional dynamics and American political development. Annual Review of Political Science 17: 461–477.

  67. Skelcher, C. (2005) Jurisdictional integrity, polycentrism, and the design of democratic governance. Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions 18 (1): 89–110.

  68. Skowronek, S. (1982) Building a New American State: The Expansion of National Administrative Capacities, 1877–1920. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

  69. Soifer, H.D. (2012) The causal logic of critical junctures. Comparative Political Studies 45 (12): 1572–1597.

  70. Stevenson, G. (1993) Ex Uno Plures. Federal-Provincial Relations in Canada, 1867–1896. Montreal-Kingston, Canada: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

  71. Streeck, W. and Thelen, K. (eds.) (2005) Introduction: Institutional change in advanced political economies. In: Beyond Continuity. Institutional Change in Advanced Political Economies. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 1–39.

  72. Swenden, W., Brans, M. and De Winter, L. (2006) The politics of Belgium: Institutions and policy under bipolar and centrifugal federalism. West European Politics 29 (5): 863–873.

  73. Thelen, K. (1999) Historical institutionalism in comparative politics. Annual Review of Political Science 2: 369–404.

  74. Thelen, K. and Steinmo, S. (1992) Historical institutionalism in comparative politics. In: K. Thelen, S. Steinmo and F. Longstreth (eds.) Structuring Politics: Historical Institutionalism in Comparative Analysis. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–32.

  75. Trechsel, A.H. (2005) How to federalize the European Union … and why bother. Journal of European Public Policy 12 (3): 401–418.

  76. Trench, A. (2007) Devolution and Power in the United Kingdom. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

  77. Ziblatt, D. (2002) Recasting German federalism? The politics of fiscal decentralization in post-unification Germany. Politische Vierteljahresschrift 43 (4): 624–652.

Download references

Acknowledgements

Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 3rd International Conference on Democracy as Idea and Practice, Workshop Regionalization and Federalization: Implications for Democracy, University of Oslo (2012), and the 63rd Annual International Conference of the Political Studies Association, Cardiff, Wales (2013). I would like to thank the participants for very helpful comments, in particular Øivind Bratberg, André Kaiser, Wilfried Swenden, Alan Trench and Richard Wyn Jones. Also, this article has benefited greatly from comments and suggestions by Jared Sonnicksen and the anonymous reviewers.

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Broschek, J. Exploring authority migration in multilevel architectures: A historical-institutionalist framework. Comp Eur Polit 13, 656–681 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1057/cep.2014.17

Download citation

Keywords

  • historical institutionalism
  • multilevel governance
  • European integration
  • comparative federalism
  • regionalization
  • authority migration