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In contrast to a federation, which is composed of federative units, such as states or Länder, a unitary state is divided into administrative and territorial units, such as departments, regions, and districts. The unitary state has a single constitution for the entire state, a general system of laws, and a unified system of bodies of state power. These attributes of the unitary state provide the necessary organizational and legal bases for the centralized guidance of social processes and for the maintenance of strong central authority in the state. All socialist states are unitary states, with the exceptions of the USSR, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, which are socialist federations.
Most contemporary bourgeois states—including Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan—are unitary states. In contemporary bourgeois federations—such as the USA, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Canada—the processes of economic and political centralization, which are characteristic of the period of statemonopoly capitalism, lead to the dominance of unitary tendencies; in these countries the role and influence of federal bodies of state power are constantly growing.