Federalization and Minority Accommodation

  • Nathalie Behnke


It is often assumed that federalization or decentralization reforms are the appropriate remedy for accommodating minority conflicts in multinational states. The underlying expectation is that by granting political competences and/or rights of cultural autonomy to regionally concentrated minorities, threats of secession, separation, or even civil war can be curbed, thereby securing plurality in unity. Based on this assumption, the establishment of federal institutions was (and still is) a common policy recommendation for transitional states. Even in established democracies, however, recent processes of competence devolution did not unequivocally confirm this assumption, let alone federal experiences in postcommunist states in Eastern Europe. Rather, it is still quite unclear whether those reforms did indeed contribute to conflict accommodation among regional groups or between regions and the central state. In Spain, as well as in the UK, recent developments seem to indicate that the fire of minority requests for more autonomy is ‘fueled’ further (Brancati, Int Org 60:651–685, 2006) in spite of recent reforms. In investigating selected processes of ‘federalization’ or ‘decentralization’ in Western democracies, which were initiated as reactions to minority requests for more autonomy, it is thus the purpose of the research project presented here to uncover relevant mechanisms that can help explain the success or failure of those measures. By taking an analytical perspective of reconstructing situational definitions, strategic decisions, and actions of regional as well as central-state actors in a long-term process marked by ‘waves’ of events (action and reaction), the dynamics at work can best be understood and explained. In this temporal stream of events, the individual perceptions of relevant actors are of course shaped by contextual factors. Therefore, the paper aims primarily at presenting the analytical framework combining the analysis of events, perceptions, and context. As the research project is still at the very beginning, I am not yet able to present empirical evidence.


Bargaining Power Regional Group Party System Comparative Case Study Reform Measure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lehrstuhl für Verwaltungswissenschaft, Fachbereich Politik- und VerwaltungswissenschaftKonstanz UniversityKonstanzGermany

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