New! Occasional Paper 19 “Coping with Diversity, Federalism and the Return of History”

Dr. Thomas O. Hueglin is a professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada. His research is focused on the history of political thought, and on comparative federalism. Recent book publications are Comparative Federalism: A Systematic Inquiry, with Alan Fenna, second edition 2015), and Classical Debates for the 21st Century: Rethinking Political Thought (2008). In 2014, Dr. Hueglin served as external consultant to the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) of the Republic of Yemen.
What is common or universal? What should be separate or particular? Here lies the challenge of federalism. Throughout history, there was different position taken by many political scientists. Robert Lane, an American political scientist, proclaimed that economic growth and welfare security would lead to a decline in class awareness, religious conflict, and racial tension while Francis Fukuyama, another American political scientist, declared the end of history. The collapse of the Soviet Union was believed to be the combination of liberal democracy and capitalism which would triumph as the final form of a universal human existence. In which case, federalism, a political form invented to accommodate difference and diversity, would no longer be needed. But, class, religious, and racial conflicts are not only determining factors in global politics, in today’s world, they are also imported into countries thought to be immune to them. Which leads us to the question: How robust are established federation themselves in coping with rising levels of difference and diversity?
Dr. Hueglin argues that the issues and conflicts driving difference and diversity will most likely transcend conventional boundaries of divided jurisdiction, success or failure will primarily depend on how governments are able to deal with overlapping or concurrent policy matters, and this in turn will very much depend on the availability of adequate formal or informal mechanisms for intergovernmental cooperation and compromise.

Forum of Federations