José Gomes André
Federalism and Political Philosophy
The concept of federalism refers initially to a system of government that assembles different political entities in a united project, mainly conducted by a central administration, but that guarantees some autonomy to the sub-structures that compose it. This description, distinguishably political, shows nevertheless that federalism is also an idea, extensible to several domains of communitarian life, a dynamic of integration that stimulates the attainment of compromises between divergent interests. In this sense, federalism can be something more than a juridical-constitutional system, representing a tendency of thought and action that isn’t restricted to the formalism of political structures, but designates also modes of relationship characterized by the search of consensus from originally diffusive contexts. Our paper considers briefly three formulations of federalism, as developed by thinkers from different cultures and periods, where such approach is present: Althusius (who emphasizes federalism as ars consociandi), Kant (who links federalism with nature’s hidden plans and reason’s imperatives to seek peace) and Proudhon (who considers associations based on agreements – federative processes – as the base of social and political relationships). We will try to demonstrate that this vision of federalism as an operative concept – a logic of cooperation that transcends the definition of a political system – is not only present in the contemporaneous debate on this subject, but constitutes in fact a guiding principle that runs through the various analysis of federalism during the centuries, what leads to the conclusion that the philosophical reading of this concept is an essential feature of the idea of federalism. If acknowledged, such conclusion would have notorious implications, as much in a substantive level (since it would alter the meaning of federalism) as in methodological terms (because federalism would be recovered from the exclusive territory of political science, and included in the speculative activity inherent to political philosophy).