chapter  2
18 Pages

Daniel J. Elazar’s covenantal interpretation of American federalism

The purpose of this chapter is to ascertain the character and extent of the sovereignty of the American states, so that the claims about the Soviet Union as a non-federation or empire in disguise could be set in a comparative perspective. I shall attempt to demonstrate through the following examination of the founding and intergovernmental relations in the United States that viewing the federation as a form of integration that transcends hierarchy and coercion is untenable and that there are suffi cient grounds to reject Elazar’s ‘noncentralised matrix’ construct that epitomises this tradition of thinking as implausible. Daniel J. Elazar’s voluminous oeuvre is emblematic of normative federal theory. 1 Elazar’s works are regularly cited in encyclopedias of political and social sciences and in books on comparative federalism. An analysis of his postulates is indispensable to this study, because he is one of the leading if not the leading articulator of the dichotomy between federation and empire, and his classifi cation of the USSR as a non-federation/empire has been considered authoritative. Current researchers on Russian federalism still regularly defer to him and the school he represents. 2 The late scholar has vigorously promoted federalism as the greatest degree of political freedom and consensualism, and the American system as its greatest success. The distinctiveness of his contribution to the studies of American federalism consists in his emphasis on its origination in federal theology and on the basic and immutable non-centralisation of its political structures (albeit temporarily corrupted by certain twentieth-century trends). Soviet ‘centralised despotism’ alongside Jacobin prefectural centralism feature as twin antinomies to American federalism in his writings.