Osgoode Hall Law Journal

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Book Review


The federal system of governance has been posited as a solution to issues of internal conflict and division within states. Over the last century the global prevalence of the federal system has increased. There are currently twenty-six states (accounting for forty per cent of the global population) that have or are in the process of adopting a federal system—including three of the so-called “BRIC” emerging global powers. While the motivating theory of the federal system is one that often seeks to pacify, contain, or eliminate conflict among subnational groups and governments, such an ideal is not as easily achieved in practice. Many federal states are formed amidst conflict and competing visions of national identity. Thus, it is often not only the division of power and resources within the federation that is contested but also the framework of the federation itself. This underlying struggle is borne out in political arenas through self-determination movements and in courts through legal disputes over division of powers. In turn, states rely on federal institutions to proactively and reactively address intra-state conflict. Situated among these institutions are “federal arbiters” who serve the critical role of adjudicating conflicts over power and resources.

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