Faculty Publications - Role of Federalism

February 18, 2014

In The Federalis(m) Society, Professor Heather Gerken discusses federalism and its role in a democratic society. While progressives may argue that federalism hurts racial minorities, Gerken argues that it in fact does the opposite: federalism, she says, plays “a crucial role in promoting the political and economic integration of racial minorities and in generating dissent and democratic debate.” Gerken urges to shift the debate on federalism from one focused on sovereignty-process to one of cooperative federalism. Gerken argues against the sovereignty model, stating that sovereignty is rare in our “increasingly integrated nationalized system”, and that states are still powerful even in a cooperative model because they play crucial roles inside the federal system. Gerken encourages the reader, and the “distinguished members of the Federalist Society”, to think of federalism in a different way, and to “pay less attention to the power of the sovereign and more attention to the power of the servant”. 

Further Reading:

Heather K. Gerken, A New Progressive Federalism, DEMOCRACY, Spring 2012

Jessica BulmanPozen & Heather K. Gerken, Uncooperative Federalism, 118 YALE L.J. (2009)

Professor Gerken’s papers in Yale Law School’s Legal Scholarship Repository, and working papers on SSRN.

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