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Federalism: A Normative Theory and its Practical Relevance [Paperback]

Kyle Scott

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Book Description

March 31 2011
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Federalism: A Normative Theory and Its Practical Relevance is an innovative attempt to defend federalism as a desirable institutional form for contemporary democracies by means of a tightly argued, coherent normative theory, which is applied to case studies of conflict resolution around the world. Welding a communitarian theory of human teleology to commonly accepted empirical generalizations about democratic politics, author Kyle Scott makes a strong case that the decentralized governance characteristic of federalism can allow politics to operate at a "human scale" while facilitating constructive deliberation. Scott sees the polity as an organic whole, in sharp contrast to most contemporary liberals and libertarians. Unlike utilitarians, he does not defend federalism principally on its economic advantages. Instead, Scott argues that human flourishing is possible only when citizens participate actively in the governance of a community of shared customs and intimate familiarity, and that proper skepticism of the efficacy of uniform schemes for human improvement should lead us to appreciate the diverse experimentation characteristic of robust autonomy for a large number of political jurisdictions.

The implications of these assumptions are truly radical, for the demanding kind of self-government that Scott — like Althusius, Aristotle, and Tocqueville — endorses requires very small jurisdictions and a very high degree of decentralization. Scott also argues in favor of a trinity of powers that local jurisdictions may use in extremis: nullification, veto, and secession. The reasoning is that these powers require the central government to deliberate with local governments on the most appropriate means to shared ends. Moreover, small scale allows deliberation to happen within local governments among citizens, who directly participate in making policy decisions.
The federalism Scott defends is thus an ideal type to which no actual federal system, even the Swiss, currently conforms. If he is right, those of us who are liberal democrats in the broad sense must work toward radical reforms in our constitutional frameworks. While the book's proposals are radical and destined to be controversial, its readers will certainly have to grapple with its trenchant critiques of the modern liberal state. -Dr. Jason Sorens, Assistant Professor, Deptartment of Political Science, University at Buffalo, SUNY.


Author wrote an Op-Ed in Duluth News Tribune on March 6 about Wisconsin's union situation.

Federalism: A Normative Theory and Its Practical Relevance is an innovative attempt to defend federalism as a desirable institutional form for contemporary democracies by means of a tightly argued, coherent normative theory, which is applied to case studies of conflict resolution around the world. Welding a communitarian theory of human teleology to commonly accepted empirical generalizations about democratic politics, author Kyle Scott makes a strong case that the decentralized governance characteristic of federalism can allow politics to operate at a “human scale” while facilitating constructive deliberation. Scott sees the polity as an organic whole, in sharp contrast to most contemporary liberals and libertarians. Unlike utilitarians, he does not defend federalism principally on its economic advantages. Instead, Scott argues that human flourishing is possible only when citizens participate actively in the governance of a community of shared customs and intimate familiarity, and that proper skepticism of the efficacy of uniform schemes for human improvement should lead us to appreciate the diverse experimentation characteristic of robust autonomy for a large number of political jurisdictions.
 
The implications of these assumptions are truly radical, for the demanding kind of self-government that Scott – like Althusius, Aristotle, and Tocqueville – endorses requires very small jurisdictions and a very high degree of decentralization. Scott also argues in favor of a trinity of powers that local jurisdictions may use in extremis: nullification, veto, and secession. The reasoning is that these powers require the central government to deliberate with local governments on the most appropriate means to shared ends. Moreover, small scale allows deliberation to happen within local governments among citizens, who directly participate in making policy decisions.
The federalism Scott defends is thus an ideal type to which no actual federal system, even the Swiss, currently conforms. If he is right, those of us who are liberal democrats in the broad sense must work toward radical reforms in our constitutional frameworks. While the book’s proposals are radical and destined to be controversial, its readers will certainly have to grapple with its trenchant critiques of the modern liberal state. -Dr. Jason Sorens, Assistant Professor, Deptartment of Political Science, University at Buffalo, SUNY.
 

Author wrote an Op-Ed in Duluth News Tribune on March 6 about Wisconsin’s union situation.

About the Author

Kyle Scott is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Houston, USA. He is the author of several journal articles and books, including Dismantling American Common Law (Lexington Books, 2008) and Federalism (Continuum, 2011).

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