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1. a loose alliance of political units. The union of the Swiss cantons is the oldest surviving confederation
2. (esp in Canada) another name for a federation



(1) A permanent union of sovereign states founded to achieve common goals, usually political or military. The confederation forms central bodies with powers delegated by member states. As a rule, these bodies do not have direct power over the member states. Their decisions, based on the principle of unanimity, may be implemented in a member state only with the consent of its agencies of power. A confederation’s finances usually consist of contributions made by member states. In a confederation there is no uniform tax or legal system.

There have been several well-known confederations, including the League of Rhenish Towns (1254–1350), the Hanseatic League (1367–1669), the Swiss Confederation (1291–1798 and 1815-48), the Netherlands (the United Provinces, 1579–1795), the United States of America (1781–87), and the German Confederation (1815–66). The Confederate States of America (1861–65) were formed during the Civil War in the USA, when the federal system temporarily disintegrated. As a rule, a confederation precedes the formation of a federation. Although it is, in fact, a federation, Switzerland is still formally referred to as a confederation.

(2) The term “confederation,” meaning union, is sometimes used in the names of various organizations, such as the General Confederation of Labor in France, the General Confederation of Labor in Italy, the Japanese Labor Confederation, the Confederation of British Industries, and the Confindustria (General Confederation of Industry) in Italy.



(in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), between the 16th and 18th centuries, a temporary political union of armed szlachta (nobility). When the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was without a king after the death of Sigismund II Augustus (1572) and in subsequent interregna, a confederation was formed at the Convocation Sejm, which declared itself to be the General, or Hooded, Confederation— that is, the supreme organ of authority. From the early 17th century the szlachta ever more frequently formed political unions (called general confederations) at the national level in order to defend their class interests. Local confederations were also formed at the województwo level. Sometimes a confederation was transformed into a rokosz, or uprising of szlachta against the king. The most famous confederations were those of Bar (1768) and Targowica (1792).

References in periodicals archive ?
It is of the essence to also shed some light on the notion of confederalism which is more often than not contrasted with that of federalism.
In other stateless nations such as Quebec, Catalonia, or the Basque Country, nationalists have proclaimed the goal of national independence or 'sovereignty' but, when it comes to putting forward concrete proposals, have retreated into formulas like sovereignty-association, sovereignty-partnership, confederalism or the 'freely-associated state'.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights held that self-determination may be exercised through independence, self-government, local government, federalism, confederalism, unitarism, or another form of political action that gives force to the people's will without abrogating territorial integrity.
Head of the Phalange party Amin Gemayel accuses opposition of pushing for confederalism.

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