Essay Example on Published in 1964 William Riker’s Federalism Origin

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Published in 1964 William Riker’s Federalism Origin operation and significance serves as a foundational novel to better understand federalism and its existence on a global scale As the title suggests Riker examines the origin of different federalist systems in addition to how it is operated and why it continues to remain as the most popular form of government Ultimately Riker completes an in depth analysis of federalism as it appears in one society with the object of generating hypotheses that can be tested against experience in other societies Riker 1964 Riker s work is unique in that it does not contain personal elaboration of details a method most used by political scientists but it is a comparative analysis that is devoted to testable generalizations He goes above the basic questions of federalism and more into an analysis of existential questions focused primarily on the adoption and maintenance of federalist systems around the globe The book begins with a brief overview of the origin of federalism The healthy alternative when compared to empires and other authoritarian governments federalism continues to be the most popular form of government Riker explains that federalism exists on a continuum ranging from minimum to maximum with most governments resting in the middle The maximum side of the scale is considered to be centralized governments which ultimately allows the ruler to make decisions in all categories except one The contrasting side the minimum referred to as peripheralized governments allows the ruler to make all of the decisions in one category However Riker s views on federalism is best expressed through his classification of federalism as a bargain Riker believes that in order for federalism to exist through such a bargain national leaders must come to terms with two special conditions that he deems as the expansion and military conditions 



This bargain is made possible through one party s desire to expand control of the territory through military use while the other typically accepts the bargain in return for protection and participation Riker hypothesizes that federations are only sufficient if both conditions are present To test his hypothesis Riker examined all instances of the creation of federalist states that he could find data for from 1786 to the year the book was published giving most attention to the centralized federalism in the U S By closely examining the invention of centralized federal governments in various locations to include British colonies European federalisms Spanish American federalism as well as federalisms in Africa and Brazil Riker concludes that the ideological and reductionist formation theories that are commonly used are flawed While the flaws address the guarantee of freedoms within federalism and the belief that federalism exists among parties with similar interests Riker faults the theories for leaving out political conditions and missing predisposition in which the bargain occurs Riker 1964 p 47 In his opinion the military and expansion conditions are necessary to the occurrence of federalism because they offer more than sociological conditions but political conditions that are necessary In addition to the origin of federalism Riker is also interested in the operation and maintenance of federalist systems He believes that centralization and the maintenance of guarantees are the most important tools required for federalism to survive Through a careful analysis of nineteen different functional areas of governmental action dating back to 1788 Riker is able to prove the popular administrative theory of federalism inadequate Riker s method includes a thorough investigation into issues of taxes military and diplomatic relations citizens welfare among other external and internal affairs Gauging most of his research around the United States degree of centralization between 1790 and 1850 Riker s data reveals that the administrative theory is insufficient because his findings suggest that the sharing of administrative duties between the two levels of government declines and some of the functions were decentralized 



Despite scholars attachment to the administrative theory Riker concludes that it is not an effective way to study and measure the operation and maintenance of the federal government Riker delves deeper into the institutions of federalism by proposing that in order to maintain the federal bargain the central government cannot completely overawe the constituents but it can keep them from overruling its own decisions Riker 1964 p 85 Starting with the Founding Fathers Riker traces the trajectory of the founding of the government followed by a survey analysis of the U S Senate system of political parties executive and judicial branches and the spirit of American federalism and loyalty to discover how closely they align with the ideals of federalism The results show that the maintenance of the bargain is largely impacted by the loyalty to the government followed by political institutions and the administrative centralization Despite Riker s devotion to discover what keeps the federal bargain alive his ultimate conclusions highlight that federalism is ultimately not significant He is critical of the U S and notes that the country was not founded by the Founders to uphold values of democracy but centered around the general consensus of the federal bargain a goal imitated around the world Upon giving his conclusions Riker poses the question Is the federal bargain worth keeping to his readers He does not give a definitive answer to this question but entertains the debate and allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusion The change in Riker s views is valuable to the field because he refutes claims and theories that are widely accepted among scholars Additionally it forces intellectuals to closely examine federalism and determine if it is something that truly exists and if it does why do we value and treasure a system that has not been deemed significant


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