Dual vs Cooperative Federalism: Difference and Comparison

Policies and the administration of the government in power run a nation. They are the ones responsible for decisions, development, and integrity.

Each country functions with its ideology; some countries follow a monarchy like the United Kingdom, some follow a single-party system like China, where a single party dictates and regulates the entire nation, while few are multi-party like India, where the powers are likely interchangeable.

In a country with a multi-party system, the power is not centred but a seesaw of possibilities.

Federalism is one form where the exercise of power gets divided within the nation, which means that the elected government with the majority of votes forms a central government. In contrast, the party with the majority within a state forms the state government.


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A federal nation empowers the residing population to choose their representative and bring them into power regardless of the winning party in the centre.

Federalism can run in two ways based on the power of forming independent decisions; a constitution can adopt Dual Federalism or Cooperative Federalism to divide powers.

Key Takeaways

  1. Dual federalism is a system where state and federal governments operate independently in their respective spheres of influence.
  2. Cooperative federalism is a system where state and federal governments work together to achieve common goals.
  3. Dual federalism limits the federal government’s role, while cooperative federalism emphasizes intergovernmental cooperation and coordination.

Dual Federalism vs Cooperative Federalism

In dual federalism, there is a division of power between a state government and a central government, which means that both exercise their powers within their jurisdiction. In cooperative federalism, the central and state governments collaborate to make decisions and solve problems.

Dual Federalism vs Cooperative Federalism

Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonDual FederalismCooperative Federalism
DefinitionIt’s the division of sovereignty, the power to run the government and make necessary policies gets divided between the elected state and central government.In Cooperative Federalism, the political arrangement of powers involves both the state and central government.
PeriodThe time from 1789 to 1901 saw the phase of Dual federalism.The period from 1901 to 1960.is considered a cooperative era.
AnalogyLayer cake analogy is used to define it; each layer represents the superficial boundary of power.It is explained with the marble cake analogy; the lines get blurred.
PowerThe state government is empowered to make state laws; the central government can not intervene in state matters.It takes away the independent power from the elected State government.
LimitationsThis kind of federalism motivates radical ideologies and creates a boundary within the nation.It can create a tiff between the state’s ruling parties and the centre.

What is Dual Federalism?

Popularly explained as a layer-cake method of power distribution, each layer of cake metaphorically signifies a boundary. Dual Federalism is the distribution of powers at the central and state levels.

The initiation of dual federalism dates back to American history, where it was first introduced in 1781 to create separate spheres of jurisdiction. The American system is a classic example, with one federal government and 50 state governments.

It is a political arrangement with clearly formed terms under the respective constitution. The state government is independent in running and forming the policies; the central government can not intervene in the state’s matters.

This type of federalism benefits the population in choosing an authority based on the ideology and ethnicity of the majority independent of one rule. Countries like India benefits the most from it,

All the national affairs, defence policies, and International trade fall under the central government, while the state can form separate criminal laws and policies benefiting the region.

dual federalism

What is Cooperative Federalism?

Cooperative Federalism is a mutual relationship between the state and the central government regarding power, policies, and implementation.

Also popularly known as marble cake federalism because the line is blurred between the centre and state-elected heads, the policies are interrelated, and the entire process works in the same sphere.

The term was introduced in 1901 when all the separate political bodies functioned together between the various levels of government for the same cause: the nation.

It has benefits and disadvantages; the state’s independent power dissolves and can create a tiff between the central and state policies. While on the other hand, if well organized, it can improve relations and facilitate a cross-culture

cooperative federalism

Main Differences Between Dual Federalism and Cooperative Federalism

  1. The main difference between Dual Federalism and Cooperative Federalism is in the division of powers; in dual federalism, the powers are divided between the state and centre, wherein the latter, the functioning is mutual and the state and centre share powers.
  2. Dual federalism could be identified between 1789-1901, whereas it was after 1901  that cooperative federalism saw a rise.
  3. The metaphor of layers of cake explains dual federalism. However, the marble cake analogy is used to explain cooperative federalism.
  4. In Dual Federalism, the state and centre do not work together; the state-elected government forms their policies suitable to the region and the people, whereas, in cooperative federalism, the decisions are the same for all.
  5. Dual federalism can create boundaries within the people of a nation; some people can get benefits while other states under central government might not experience the same; cooperative federalism, on the other hand, can create tiffs between the elected parties in power.
  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=v1WmpCWF6LAC&oi=fnd&pg=PR11&dq=difference+between+dual+and+cooperative+federalism&ots=3jwMrTqUHf&sig=3ezCjmxXrsZHg-pBss58wW7WAyg
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1290080
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