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Heterogeneity and Federal Systems: Group Rights, Individual Rights, and Multicultural Citizenship

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Allen, Barbara
Conference: Crossing Boundaries, the Seventh Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Conf. Date: June 10-14
Date: 1998
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/693
Sector: Social Organization
Region: North America
Subject(s): IASC
Tocqueville, Alexis de
institutional design
Abstract: "In society, the term heterogeneity may be used to describe an asymmetrical distribution of political resources. When applied to the physical environment, 'heterogeneity' can signify important differences in resource characteristics and, as a consequence, the need to look at resource boundaries as well as political boundaries to understand the relationship between natural and social worlds. Political institutions can advance or retard cultural heterogeneity and diversity in the physical environment. Federal systems explicitly embrace complexity, heterogeneity, and complimentarity as basic principles of institutional development. As a form of polycentric authority, federalism facilitates cultural heterogeneity by enabling diverse, interdependent peoples who occupy a single geographical space to exercise shared prerogatives of rule. Federalism relies on commonly held principles of collective decision making and shared values. This paper considers the origins of common value and political practice in the example of American federalism, taking Alexis de Tocqueville's observations of American democracy as a point of departure. In America, the "federal principle" developed during the colonial period as individuals and peoples united through the act of covenanting. Covenants can unite independent polities without destroying their existing governments, suggesting that federalism provides one method of political integration that preserves cultural diversity."

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