Define federalism and describe suitable geographical conditions for its origin and development UPSC


Define federalism and describe suitable geographical conditions for its origin and development. (UPPSC, 2020, 15 marks)


Federalism is a governing system in which the power of the country is divided between the central authority and the various constituent units of the country.

In general, there are two levels of federalism:

  • A central government that serves the national interest [also known as centripetal force].
  • The provincial government meets the day-to-day needs of the local population or serves regional interests [also called centrifugal force].

The federalism system originated and developed to serve particular societies of diverse geographical regions.

The following are the suitable geographical conditions for the origin of the development of federalism:

Common Historical Background:

Federalism is needed when a country has similar historical backgrounds despite having diversity in linguistics, society, culture, and geography. 

For example, Bharat was a country since ancient times having areas stretching from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari. The whole of India has a single history from the ancient to the colonial period, so federalism is best suited for overall stability in India.

Physiographic diversity:

  • Culture and society as we know it varies with different geographical diversity. Federalism is preferred in a country where there is geographical diversity such as mountains, plants, plateaus, coastal areas, etc.

Diverse Climate:

  • If the climate is diverse in the country, then the method of governance should be designed on the basis of the local climate.

Economic factors and use of resources:

  • Federalism is needed to serve equitable distribution of resources and welfare for the people in diverse geographical areas.

Large Population Size and Population Diversity:

  • Federalism is best suited to effectively manage a large size of the population.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity:

  • Federalism takes care of the aspiration for linguistic and cultural diversity.

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