Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Federalism, as a constitutional concept underlying the appropriate distribution of powers among the federal and state governments, has responded in understandable ways to long-term trends in economics, political organization and political values. Such trends have encouraged centralization through most of the twentieth century, as is reflected in both judicial doctrine and governmental practice. However, changing conceptions of the political economy and the political regime have created a new structural dynamic that favors a less centralized version of federalism.

In this article, Professor Whittington examines the structural foundations of the movement toward centralization and the modern countertrends to that movement which have fostered a move toward decentralization. The author argues that such developments indicate that federalism is not meaningless as a constitutional concept. Neither, however, is it static nor simply a function of legal doctrine. Instead, federalism is a fluid concept which operates within broad limits and is shaped by larger political and social changes.