Background. The problems of federalism have attracted researchers for more than four centuries. Moreover, the true research revolution began in the middle of the twentieth century indicating a sharp increase in the relevance of this topic. In this connection, when preparing a review of foreign literature, one should pay attention not only to classical works, but also to the last days’ ones, making an application for originality and interdisciplinarity.
Materials and methods. The article analyzes numerous monographs and articles prepared by foreign lawyers, political scientists and historians over the past 70 years. Particular attention is paid to the works of the classics of federalism K. Ware, R. Watts, W. Livingston, W. Riker, D. Elazar. Their brief description and comments are given. The review also includes a consideration of current scientific works over the past 20–30 years. It convincingly testifies that in the study of federalism political methods prevail, unlike state-legal and historical-state methods. Foreign authors have raised such a fashionable theme of state management.
Results. The analysis made it possible to identify “bottlenecks” in the study of federalism. Foreign studies most often focus on trivial conclusions about two levels of government; they provide some static pictures that depict the interaction of federalism and political-legal principles and institutions. They are addicted to the instrumentalist approach embodied by state management. Of course, there are also promising directions from our point of view. For example, the sociological federalism of W. Livingstone is not outdated. Interesting are the comparative legal project of an expert assessment of legal unification in 20 states, a political science study on the degree of centralization-decentralization in matters of legislative and administrative regulation in 6 federations.
Conclusions. For all their diversity, federalist studies indicate a lack of a model approach that allows for a systematic review of the basic characteristics and development vectors of federal states. The model approach, which is being developed at Penza State University, being essentially evolutionary, presents an opportunity to synthesize historical-state, historical-legal and political science research and to compare the models.
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