Difference Between Dual Federalism and Cooperative Federalism (With Table)

A nation is run by policies and administration of government in power. 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 having a multi-party system, the power is not centered and is a seesaw of possibilities.

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

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

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

Dual Federalism vs Cooperative Federalism

The difference between Dual Federalism and Cooperative Federalism is in the power division and regulation. Dual Federalism supports an equal division, the government in a state can have maximum power in hand whereas in Cooperative Federalism, the power is shared, where the decisions of the state are equally looked at by the central government.

Comparison Table Between Dual Federalism and Cooperative Federalism

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 is such that both the state and central government are involved.
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 powerIt 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 ruling parties of state and center.

What is Dual Federalism?

Popularly explained as a layer-cake method of power distribution with each layer of cake signifying a boundary metaphorically. Dual Federalism is the distribution of powers at the central as well as state level.

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, 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 matter.

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

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

What is Cooperative Federalism?

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

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

The term was introduced in the year 1901 where all the separate political bodies functioned together, between the various levels of government for the same cause, that is, nation.

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

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 center wherein the latter, the functioning is mutual, the state and center share powers.
  2. Dual federalism could be identified between the years 1789-1901 whereas it was after 1901  that cooperative federalism saw a rise.
  3. Dual federalism is explained by the metaphor of layers of cake, however, the marble cake analogy is used to explain cooperative federalism.
  4. In Dual Federalism the state and center 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 tiff between the elected parties in power.


Each country works in a specific way, based on the idea documented in a constitution. Federalism enables the nation to be run by different political entities, central and state. Both the entities are empowered to serve the population within a nation, the center makes policies for the entire nation while the state policies may be subjected to just state.

Dual Federalism is the distribution of powers which was started in America where the state elected government has rights to form policies and not rely on the central government fully, the central government, however, is responsible for the crucial matters regarding national policies, international trade, and meetings.

The cooperative method of federalism too is practiced by some nations where the state, as well as central government, work together and the like of power is blurred thus the federalism is also defined by the marble cake analogy.


  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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