Anton Pelinka Federal Systems: Tthe EU, US And India Compared

The course is designed to focus on the analysis of federalism using the cases of three rather different systems. Despite the continental dimension, the EU, the US and India have in common, the three systems differ greatly:



  • The United States, together with Switzerland, is considered the most traditional federal system. US federalism is very much the case of a bottom-up development.
  • India is a comparatively new state with a combination of Westminster (British style) democracy and symmetrical federalism. Indian federalism has been established top-down.
  • The EU is not a state, but – perhaps – a federation in the making. European federalism is the perfect case of a long ongoing process based on nation (member) states as driving forces of integration.



In all cases, federalism has to be seen as an instrument to deal with national, ethnic, religious, social, and geographic diversity. Despite very different backgrounds, all three cases cannot be imagined as unitary (centralised) democratic states. In all three cases, federal structure seems to be the only way to establish democracy.

The focus will be especially on the following questions:


  • the structures of federal governments;
  • the compatibility of federalism on one side, presidentialism resp. parliamentary rule on the other;
  • the question of identity, resp.identities;
  • the balance between majority rule and minority protection;
  • the preconditions of democratic federalism;
  • party systems and federal structures;
  • the impact of federalism on foreign policy.