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Migdal goes Canadian: deconstructing the 'executive' in the study of Canadian federalism

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Collins, Emmet

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Abstract Over the 20th century the field of comparative politics was subject to a debate about the proper way of theorizing the state. Society-centric scholars initially put the state in the background, while later state-centric authors brought the state back in, making it the focal point of their analysis. Dissatisfied with both, Joel S Migdal published State in Society (2001), which advocated for a rethinking of the study of the state. Migdal argued that the state must be considered as a fragmented actor among many others in society. This theory of fragmentation of the state would seem to be naturally applicable to the study of federalism. Yet this has not been the case. This paper argues that Migdal’s approach would be a useful addition to the study of federalism and intergovernmental relations, using Canada as a test case. A brief review of some key literature first places Migdal’s approach in terms of the broader debate between ‘societalists’ and ‘statists’. Migdal’s approach is then applied to a particular facet of the literature on Canadian federalism: executive federalism. The paper concludes that although federalism in Canada has been studied extensively, Migdal’s notion of ‘state in society’ would provide us a useful way to further our understanding of federalism and intergovernmental relations.
Keywords national state; federalism; Canada; political theory; political science; society
Classification Political System, Constitution, Government; Basic Research, General Concepts and History of Political Science
Free Keywords Migdal; executive federalism
Document language English
Publication Year 2012
Page/Pages p. 1-8
Journal Federal Governance, 9 (2012) 1
ISSN 1923-6158
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Basic Digital Peer Publishing Licence