chapter  12
26 Pages

Democracy, federalism and plurinational states MIqUEL CAMINAL

In liberal democracies unitary federalism has made it possible to achieve compatibility between national union and territorial division of state power. Pluralist federalism may be the new way to permit the plurinational transformation of nation-states as it promotes compatibility between the plurinational demos and the demoi of which it is composed. Federal unions have either been constructed and consolidated on the foundations of the permanence of pre-existing state entities or are the result of a territorial transformation of the unitary state, which recomposes itself federally in a process of recognition and guarantee of self-government of the autonomous or federal entities that comprise it. In both cases it is necessary to extend the debate about how to go beyond the concept of the sovereign state and the state means nation equivalence. Its effect is the federalist institutional transformation of the nation-state by means of two principles: (1) national pluralism; (2) federal division of powers. Together these two principles lead to the replacement of the concept of the sovereign state, which has characterised the formation and development of the modern state, by that of the federal union of states and nations based on divisible and shared sovereignty. Thus, federalism has two options when it is faced with nationalist hegemony. It can opt to continue to be a juridical-political technique for the territorial organisation of the nation-state which does not get involved in political matters or in their nationalist justification. This is the case of a supposedly neutral form of federalism which does not participate in questions of an ideological nature, but which in reality accepts nationally dominant ideas and projects. On the other hand, it is possible to opt for a plurinational form of federalism which aims to change the foundations of the nation-state and fix an expiry date for dominant nationalism. This is a kind of federalism that accepts the challenge of transforming the nation-state in the context of democratic, multicultural and plurinational societies. The first kind of federalism is national federalism, which has proven its validity in the past, continues to be useful as a demonstration of the compatibility between national unity and the federal division of powers, but is insufficient and inadequate when faced with the new problems and demands of contemporary society. On the other hand, plurinational federalism aims to seek out these problems and at the same time find ways and means to address them through pluralist democracy.