Decentralization or decentralisation is the process by which the activities of an organization, particularly those regarding planning and decision making, are distributed or delegated away from a central, authoritative location or group. Concepts of decentralization has been applied to
group dynamics Group dynamics is a system of behaviors and psychological processes occurring within a social group In the social sciences, a social group can be defined as two or more people who interact with one another, share similar characteristics, and co ...
management science Management science (MS) is the broad interdisciplinary study of problem solving and decision making in human organizations, with strong links to management Management (or managing) is the administration of an organization, whether it is a busin ...
in private businesses and organizations,
political science Political science is the scientific study of politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of ...
law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundari ...
public administration Public administration is the implementation of government policy Public policy is a course of action created and/or enacted, typically by a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, g ...
economics Economics () is a social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a bran ...

money In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money bags handed to King George III are contrasted with the beggar whose legs and arms were amputated, in the left corner">174x174px Money is any item or verifiable record that is generally a ...

technology Technology ("science of craft", from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. I ...



The word "''centralisation''" came into use in France in 1794 as the post-
Revolution In political science Political science is the scientific study of politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, suc ...

French Directory The Directory (also called Directorate, ) was the governing five-member committee A committee or commission is a body of one or more persons subordinate to an assembly. A committee is not itself considered to be a form of assembly. Usually, ...
leadership created a new government structure. The word "''décentralisation''" came into usage in the 1820s. "Centralization" entered written English in the first third of the 1800s; mentions of decentralization also first appear during those years. In the mid-1800s
Tocqueville Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, comte de Tocqueville (; 29 July 180516 April 1859), colloquially known as Tocqueville (), was a French aristocrat, diplomat, political scientist, political philosopher and historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Gree ...

would write that the French Revolution began with "a push towards decentralization... ut became,in the end, an extension of centralization."Vivien A. Schmidt, ''Democratizing France: The Political and Administrative History of Decentralization''
p. 10
In 1863, retired French bureaucrat
Maurice Block Maurice Block (german: link=no, Moritz Block); 18 February 18169 January 1901) was a German- French statistician A statistician is a person who works with theoretical or applied statistics Statistics is the discipline that concerns the col ...

Maurice Block
wrote an article called "Decentralization" for a French journal that reviewed the dynamics of government and bureaucratic centralization and recent French efforts at decentralization of government functions. Ideas of liberty and decentralization were carried to their logical conclusions during the 19th and 20th centuries by anti-state political activists calling themselves "
anarchists Anarchism is a political philosophy Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the relationships between them. Its top ...

", "
libertarians Libertarianism (from french: libertaire, "libertarian"; from la, libertas, "freedom") is a political philosophy Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of ...
", and even decentralists.
Tocqueville Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, comte de Tocqueville (; 29 July 180516 April 1859), colloquially known as Tocqueville (), was a French aristocrat, diplomat, political scientist, political philosopher and historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Gree ...

was an advocate, writing: "Decentralization has, not only an administrative value but also a civic dimension since it increases the opportunities for citizens to take interest in public affairs; it makes them get accustomed to using freedom. And from the accumulation of these local, active, persnickety freedoms, is born the most efficient counterweight against the claims of the central government, even if it were supported by an impersonal, collective will."A History of Decentralization
Earth Institute {{Infobox organization , name = The Earth Institute , image = Ei blue1.gif , map_size = , map_alt = , map_caption = , map2 = , type = , tax_id = , registration_id = ...
Columbia University Columbia University (also known as Columbia, and officially as Columbia University in the City of New York) is a in . Established in 1754 as King's College on the grounds of in , Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in and ...

Columbia University
website, ''accessed February 4, 2013''.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (, , ; 15 January 1809, Besançon – 19 January 1865, Paris Paris () is the Capital city, capital and List of communes in France with over 20,000 inhabitants, most populous city of France, with an estimated popu ...

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
(1809–1865), influential anarchist theorist wrote: "All my economic ideas as developed over twenty-five years can be summed up in the words: agricultural-industrial federation. All my political ideas boil down to a similar formula: political federation or decentralization." In the early 20th century, America's response to the centralization of economic wealth and political power was a decentralist movement. It blamed large-scale industrial production for destroying middle-class shop keepers and small manufacturers and promoted increased property ownership and a return to small scale living. The decentralist movement attracted
Southern AgrariansThe Southern Agrarians were twelve American Southerners who wrote an agrarian literary manifesto in 1930. They and their essay collection, ''I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition'', contributed to the Southern Renaissance, th ...
Robert Penn Warren Robert Penn Warren (April 24, 1905 – September 15, 1989) was an American poet, novelist A novelist is an author or writer of novels, though often novelists also write in other genres of both fiction and non-fiction. Some novelists are profession ...

Robert Penn Warren
, as well as journalist
Herbert Agar Herbert Sebastian Agar (29 September 1897 – 24 November 1980) was an American journalist and historian, and an editor of the ''Louisville Courier-Journal ''The Courier-Journal'', also known as the ''Louisville Courier Journal'' (and infor ...
New Left The New Left was a broad political movement mainly in the 1960s and 1970s consisting of activists in the Western world The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various regions, nation A nation is a community of people fo ...
and libertarian individuals who identified with social, economic, and often political decentralism through the ensuing years included
Ralph Borsodi Ralph Borsodi (December 20, 1888 – October 26, 1977) was an agrarian Agrarian means pertaining to agriculture, farmland, or rural areas. Agrarian may refer to: Political philosophy *Agrarianism *Agrarian law, Roman laws regulating the divisi ...
Wendell Berry Wendell Erdman Berry (born August 5, 1934) is an American novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer. He is an elected member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, a recipient of The National Humanities Meda ...
Paul Goodman Paul Goodman (1911–1972) was an American author and public intellectual An intellectual is a person who engages in critical thinking, research, and Human self-reflection, reflection to advance discussions of academic subjects. This oft ...
Carl Oglesby Carl Preston Oglesby (July 30, 1935 – September 13, 2011) was an American writer, academic An academy ( Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is an institution of secondary or tertiary higher learning, research ...
Karl Hess Karl Hess (born Carl Hess III; May 25, 1923 – April 22, 1994) was an American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States ...
Donald Livingston Donald Livingston is a former Professor of Philosophy at Emory University and a David Hume David Hume (; born David Home; 7 May 1711 NS (26 April 1711 OS) – 25 August 1776) Cranston, Maurice, and Thomas Edmund Jessop. 2020 999avid Hume" ...
Kirkpatrick Sale Kirkpatrick Sale (born June 27, 1937) is an American author who has written prolifically about political decentralism, environmentalism, luddism and technology. He has been described as having a "philosophy unified by decentralism" and as being "a ...
(author of ''Human Scale''),
Murray Bookchin Murray Bookchin (January 14, 1921 – July 30, 2006) was an American anarchist, political philosopher, trade-union organizer, and educator. A pioneer in the environmental movement, Bookchin formulated and developed the theory of social ec ...

Murray Bookchin
Dorothy Day Dorothy Day (November 8, 1897 – November 29, 1980) was an American journalist, social activist and Anarchism, anarchist who, after a bohemianism, bohemian youth, became a Catholic Church, Catholic without abandoning her social and anarchist ac ...

Dorothy Day
, Senator Mark O. Hatfield, Mildred J. Loomis and
Bill Kauffman Bill Kauffman (born November 15, 1959) is an American political writer generally aligned with the localist movement. He was born in Batavia, New York, and currently resides in Elba, New York, with his wife and daughter. A devout Roman Catholic, ...
Leopold Kohr Leopold Kohr (5 October 1909, in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria Austria (, ; german: Österreich ), officially the Republic of Austria (german: Republik Österreich, links=no, ), is a landlocked Eastern Alps, East Alpine country in the ...
, author of the 1957 book ''The Breakdown of Nations'' – known for its statement "Whenever something is wrong, something is too big" – was a major influence on E. F. Schumacher, author of the 1973 bestseller '' Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered''. In the next few years a number of best-selling books promoted decentralization.
Daniel Bell Daniel Bell (May 10, 1919 – January 25, 2011) was an American sociologist, writer, editor, and professor at Harvard University Harvard University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was t ...

Daniel Bell
's ''The Coming of Post-Industrial Society'' discussed the need for decentralization and a "comprehensive overhaul of government structure to find the appropriate size and scope of units", as well as the need to detach functions from current state boundaries, creating regions based on functions like water, transport, education and economics which might have "different 'overlays' on the map."
Alvin Toffler Alvin Toffler (October 4, 1928 – June 27, 2016) was an American writer, futurist, and businessman known for his works discussing modern technologies, including the digital revolution and the Telecommunication, communication revolution, with e ...

Alvin Toffler
published ''
Future Shock ''Future Shock'' is a 1970 book by American futurist Alvin Toffler, written together with his spouse Adelaide Farrell, in which the authors define the term "''future shock''" as a certain psychological state of individuals and entire societies. ...

Future Shock
'' (1970) and '' The Third Wave'' (1980). Discussing the books in a later interview, Toffler said that industrial-style, centralized, top-down bureaucratic planning would be replaced by a more open, democratic, decentralized style which he called "anticipatory democracy".
Futurist Futurists (also known as futurologists, prospectivists, foresight practitioners and horizon scanners) are people whose specialty or interest is futurology 280px, Moore's law is an example of futurology; it is a statistical collection of ...

John Naisbitt John Naisbitt (January 15, 1929 – April 8, 2021) was an American author and public speaker in the area of futures studies Futures studies, futures research or futurology is the systematic, interdisciplinary and holistic study of social and ...
's 1982 book "Megatrends" was on
The New York Times Best Seller list ''The New York Times'' Best Seller list is widely considered the preeminent list of bestseller, best-selling books in the United States.John Bear, ''The #1 New York Times Best Seller: intriguing facts about the 484 books that have been #1 New Yor ...
for more than two years and sold 14 million copies. Naisbitt's book outlines 10 "megatrends", the fifth of which is from centralization to decentralization. In 1996 David Osborne and Ted Gaebler had a best selling book ''Reinventing Government'' proposing decentralist public administration theories which became labeled the "
New Public Management New Public Management (NPM) is an approach to running public service organizations that is used in government and public service institutions and agencies, at both sub-national and national levels. The term was first introduced by academics in the ...
". Stephen Cummings wrote that decentralization became a "revolutionary megatrend" in the 1980s. In 1983 Diana Conyers asked if decentralization was the "latest fashion" in development administration.
Cornell University Cornell University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly two ...
's project on Restructuring Local Government states that decentralization refers to the "global trend" of devolving responsibilities to regional or local governments.Decentralization
, article at the
Restructuring local government project
" of Dr. Mildred Warner,
Cornell University Cornell University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly two ...
, ''accessed February 4, 2013''.
Robert J. Bennett's ''Decentralization, Intergovernmental Relations and Markets: Towards a Post-Welfare Agenda'' describes how after
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
governments pursued a centralized "welfarist" policy of entitlements which now has become a "post-welfare" policy of intergovernmental and market-based decentralization. In 1983, "Decentralization" was identified as one of the " Ten Key Values" of the Green Movement in the United States. According to a 1999
United Nations Development Programme The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)french: Programme des Nations unies pour le développement, PNUD is a United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international peace ...


Systems approach

Those studying the goals and processes of implementing decentralization often use a
systems theory Systems theory is the interdisciplinary Interdisciplinarity or interdisciplinary studies involves the combination of two or more academic disciplines into one activity (e.g., a research project). It draws knowledge from several other fields ...
approach, which according to the
United Nations Development Programme The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)french: Programme des Nations unies pour le développement, PNUD is a United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international peace ...
report applies to the topic of decentralization "a whole systems perspective, including levels, spheres, sectors and functions and seeing the community level as the entry point at which holistic definitions of development goals are from the people themselves and where it is most practical to support them. It involves seeing multi-level frameworks and continuous, synergistic processes of interaction and iteration of cycles as critical for achieving wholeness in a
decentralized system A decentralised system in systems theory is a system in which lower level components operate on local information to accomplish global goals. The global pattern of behaviour is an emergent property of dynamical mechanisms that act upon local com ...
and for sustaining its development." However, it has been seen as part of a systems approach. Norman Johnson of
Los Alamos National Laboratory Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos or LANL for short) is a United States Department of Energy national laboratory initially organized during World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or ...
wrote in a 1999 paper: "A decentralized system is where some decisions by the agents are made without centralized control or processing. An important property of agent systems is the degree of connectivity or connectedness between the agents, a measure global flow of information or influence. If each agent is connected (exchange states or influence) to all other agents, then the system is highly connected."
University of California, Irvine The University of California, Irvine (UCI or UC Irvine) is a Public university, public Land-grant university, land-grant research university in Irvine, California. One of the ten campuses of the University of California system, UCI offers 87 unde ...
's Institute for Software Research's "PACE" project is creating an "architectural style for trust management in decentralized applications." It adopted Rohit Khare's definition of decentralization: "A decentralized system is one which requires multiple parties to make their own independent decisions" and applies it to
Peer-to-peer Peer-to-peer (P2P) computing or networking is a distributed application Distributed computing is a field of computer science that studies distributed systems. A ''distributed system'' is a system whose components are located on different co ...

software creation, writing:


Decentralization in any area is a response to the problems of centralized systems. Decentralization in government, the topic most studied, has been seen as a solution to problems like economic decline, government inability to fund services and their general decline in performance of overloaded services, the demands of minorities for a greater say in local governance, the general weakening legitimacy of the public sector and global and international pressure on countries with inefficient, undemocratic, overly centralized systems.Holger Daun, ''School Decentralization in the Context of Globalizing Governance: International Comparison of Grassroots Responses,'' Springer, 2007
pp. 28–29
The following four goals or objectives are frequently stated in various analyses of decentralization. ; Participation In decentralization, the principle of
subsidiarity Subsidiarity is a principle of social organization that holds that social and political issues should be dealt with at the most immediate (or local) level that is consistent with their resolution. The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' defines subsi ...
is often invoked. It holds that the lowest or least centralized authority that is capable of addressing an issue effectively should do so. According to one definition: "Decentralization, or decentralizing governance, refers to the restructuring or reorganization of authority so that there is a system of co-responsibility between institutions of governance at the central, regional and local levels according to the principle of subsidiarity, thus increasing the overall quality and effectiveness of the system of governance while increasing the authority and capacities of sub-national levels." Decentralization is often linked to concepts of participation in decision-making, democracy, equality and liberty from a higher authority. Decentralization enhances the democratic voice. Theorists believe that local representative authorities with actual discretionary powers are the basis of decentralization that can lead to local efficiency, equity and development."
Columbia University Columbia University (also known as Columbia, and officially as Columbia University in the City of New York) is a in . Established in 1754 as King's College on the grounds of in , Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in and ...

Columbia University
Earth Institute {{Infobox organization , name = The Earth Institute , image = Ei blue1.gif , map_size = , map_alt = , map_caption = , map2 = , type = , tax_id = , registration_id = ...
identified one of three major trends relating to decentralization: "increased involvement of local jurisdictions and civil society in the management of their affairs, with new forms of participation, consultation, and partnerships." Decentralization has been described as a "counterpoint to globalization removes decisions from the local and national stage to the global sphere of multi-national or non-national interests. Decentralization brings decision-making back to the sub-national levels". Decentralization strategies must account for the interrelations of global, regional, national, sub-national, and local levels. ; Diversity Norman L. Johnson writes that diversity plays an important role in decentralized systems like
ecosystems An ecosystem (or ecological system) consists of all the organisms and the physical environment with which they interact. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the syste ...
social groups In the social sciences, a social group can be defined as two or more people who interact with one another, share similar characteristics, and collectively have a sense of unity. Regardless, social groups come in a myriad of sizes and varieties ...
, large organizations,
political systems In political science Political science is the scientific study of politics. It is a social science dealing with systems of governance and power, and the analysis of politics, political activities, political thoughts, political behavior, and asso ...
. "Diversity is defined to be unique properties of entities, agents, or individuals that are not shared by the larger group, population, structure. Decentralized is defined as a property of a system where the agents have some ability to operate "locally." Both decentralization and diversity are necessary attributes to achieve the self-organizing properties of interest." Advocates of political decentralization hold that greater participation by better informed diverse interests in society will lead to more relevant decisions than those made only by authorities on the national level.Political Decentralization
, Decentralization and Subnational Economies project,
World Bank The World Bank is an international financial institution An international financial institution (IFI) is a financial institution that has been established (or chartered) by more than one country, and hence is subject to international law. Its o ...
website, ''accessed February 9, 2013''.
Decentralization has been described as a response to demands for diversity. ; Efficiency In business, decentralization leads to a management by results philosophy which focuses on definite objectives to be achieved by unit results. Decentralization of government programs is said to increase efficiency – and effectiveness – due to reduction of congestion in communications, quicker reaction to unanticipated problems, improved ability to deliver services, improved information about local conditions, and more support from beneficiaries of programs. Firms may prefer decentralization because it ensures efficiency by making sure that managers closest to the local information make decisions and in a more timely fashion; that their taking responsibility frees upper management for long term strategics rather than day-to-day decision-making; that managers have hands on training to prepare them to move up the management hierarchy; that managers are motivated by having the freedom to exercise their own initiative and creativity; that managers and divisions are encouraged to prove that they are profitable, instead of allowing their failures to be masked by the overall profitability of the company. The same principles can be applied to the government. Decentralization promises to enhance efficiency through both inter-governmental competitions with market features and fiscal discipline which assigns tax and expenditure authority to the lowest level of government possible. It works best where members of the subnational government have strong traditions of democracy, accountability, and professionalism. ; Conflict resolution Economic and/or political decentralization can help prevent or reduce conflict because they reduce actual or perceived inequities between various regions or between a region and the central government. Dawn Brancati finds that political decentralization reduces intrastate conflict unless politicians create political parties that mobilize minority and even extremist groups to demand more resources and power within national governments. However, the likelihood this will be done depends on factors like how democratic transitions happen and features like a regional party's proportion of legislative seats, a country's number of regional legislatures, elector procedures, and the order in which national and regional elections occur. Brancati holds that decentralization can promote peace if it encourages statewide parties to incorporate regional demands and limit the power of regional parties.


; Initiation The processes by which entities move from a more to a less centralized state vary. They can be initiated from the centers of authority ("
top-down Top-down may refer to: Arts and entertainment * "Top Down", a 2007 song by Swizz Beatz * "Top Down", a song by Lil Yachty from ''Lil Boat 3'' Science * Top-down reading, is a part of reading science that explains the reader's psycholinguistic ...
") or from individuals, localities or regions (" bottom-up"),Ariunaa Lkhagvadorj, ''Fiscal federalism and decentralization in Mongolia'',
University of Potsdam The University of Potsdam is a public university, public university in Potsdam, capital of the state of Brandenburg, Germany. It is mainly situated across three campuses in the city. Some faculty buildings are part of the New Palace of Sanssouc ...
, Germany, 2010
p. 23
or from a "mutually desired" combination of authorities and localities working together. Bottom-up decentralization usually stresses political values like local responsiveness and increased participation and tends to increase political stability. Top-down decentralization may be motivated by the desire to "shift deficits downwards" and find more resources to pay for services or pay off government debt. Some hold that decentralization should not be imposed, but done in a respectful manner. ; Appropriate size Gauging the appropriate size or scale of decentralized units has been studied in relation to the size of sub-units of hospitals and schools, road networks, administrative units in business and public administration, and especially town and city governmental areas and decision making bodies. In creating
planned communities File:Abuja, Federal Capital Territory 3.jpg, 250px, Abuja, in Nigeria, which was built mainly in the 1980s, was the fastest growing city in the world between 2000 and 2010, with an increase of 139.7%, and still expanding rapidly A planned com ...
("new towns"), it is important to determine the appropriate population and geographical size. While in earlier years small towns were considered appropriate, by the 1960s, 60,000 inhabitants was considered the size necessary to support a diversified job market and an adequate shopping center and array of services and entertainment. Appropriate size of governmental units for revenue raising also is a consideration. Even in
bioregionalism Bioregionalism is a philosophy that suggests that political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and political), power ...
, which seeks to reorder many functions and even the boundaries of governments according to physical and environmental features, including
watershed Watershed is a hydrological term, which has been adopted in other fields in a more or less figurative sense. It may refer to: Hydrology * Drainage divide, the line that separates neighbouring drainage basins ** European watershed * Drainage basin, ...

boundaries and
soil Soil is a mixture In chemistry Chemistry is the science, scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural science that covers the Chemical element, elements that make up matter to the chemical compound, comp ...

terrain Relief map of Sierra Nevada, Spain Terrain or relief (also topographical Topography is the study of the forms and features of land surfaces. The topography of an area could refer to the surface forms and features themselves, or a desc ...

characteristics, appropriate size must be considered. The unit may be larger than many decentralist bioregionalists prefer. ; Inadvertent or silent Decentralization ideally happens as a careful, rational, and orderly process, but it often takes place during times of economic and political crisis, the fall of a regime and the resultant power struggles. Even when it happens slowly, there is a need for experimentation, testing, adjusting, and replicating successful experiments in other contexts. There is no one blueprint for decentralization since it depends on the initial state of a country and the power and views of political interests and whether they support or oppose decentralization. Decentralization usually is a conscious process based on explicit policies. However, it may occur as "silent decentralization" in the absence of reforms as changes in networks, policy emphasize and resource availability lead inevitably to a more decentralized system. ; Asymmetry Decentralization may be uneven and "asymmetric" given any one country's population, political, ethnic and other forms of diversity. In many countries, political, economic and administrative responsibilities may be decentralized to the larger urban areas, while rural areas are administered by the central government. Decentralization of responsibilities to provinces may be limited only to those provinces or states which want or are capable of handling responsibility. Some privatization may be more appropriate to an urban than a rural area; some types of privatization may be more appropriate for some states and provinces but not others. ; Measurement Measuring the amount of decentralization, especially politically, is difficult because different studies of it use different definitions and measurements. An OECD study quotes ''Chanchal Kumar Sharma'' as stating: "a true assessment of the degree of decentralization in a country can be made only if a comprehensive approach is adopted and rather than trying to simplify the syndrome of characteristics into the single dimension of autonomy, interrelationships of various dimensions of decentralization are taken into account."


The academic literature frequently mentions the following factors as determinants of decentralization: * "The number of major ethnic groups" * "The degree of territorial concentration of those groups" * "The existence of ethnic networks and communities across the border of the state" * "The country's dependence on natural resources and the degree to which those resources are concentrated in the region's territory" * "The country's per capita income relative to that in other regions" * The presence of self-determination movements

Government decentralization

Historians have described the history of governments and empires in terms of centralization and decentralization. In his 1910 ''The History of Nations''
Henry Cabot Lodge Henry Cabot Lodge (May 12, 1850 November 9, 1924) was an American Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of government that is not a monarchy or dictatorship, and is usually associated with t ...

Henry Cabot Lodge
wrote that Persian king
Darius I Darius I ( peo, 𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁 ; New Persian New Persian ( fa, فارسی نو), also known as Modern Persian () and Dari (), is the final stage of the Persian language Persian (), also known by its endonym An endonym ( ...
(550–486 BC) was a master of organization and "for the first time in history centralization becomes a political fact." He also noted that this contrasted with the decentralization of
Ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era wa ...
. Since the 1980s a number of scholars have written about cycles of centralization and decentralizations. Stephen K. Sanderson wrote that over the last 4000 years chiefdoms and actual states have gone through sequences of centralization and decentralization of economic, political and social power. Yildiz Atasoy writes this process has been going on "since the Stone Age" through not just chiefdoms and states, but empires and today's "hegemonic core states". Christopher K. Chase-Dunn and Thomas D. Hall review other works that detail these cycles, including works which analyze the concept of core elites which compete with state accumulation of wealth and how their "intra-ruling-class competition accounts for the rise and fall of states" and their phases of centralization and decentralization. Rising government expenditures, poor economic performance and the rise of
free market In economics Economics () is a social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of pl ...
-influenced ideas have convinced governments to decentralize their operations, to induce competition within their services, to contract out to private firms operating in the market, and to privatize some functions and services entirely. Government decentralization has both political and administrative aspects. Its decentralization may be territorial, moving power from a central city to other localities, and it may be functional, moving decision-making from the top administrator of any branch of government to lower level officials, or divesting of the function entirely through privatization. It has been called the "
new public management New Public Management (NPM) is an approach to running public service organizations that is used in government and public service institutions and agencies, at both sub-national and national levels. The term was first introduced by academics in the ...
" which has been described as decentralization, management by objectives, contracting out, competition within government and consumer orientation.


Political decentralization signifies a reduction in the authority of national governments over policymaking. This process is accomplished by the institution of reforms that either delegate a certain degree of meaningful decision-making autonomy to subnational tiers of government, or grant citizens the right to elect lower-level officials, like local or regional representatives. Depending on the country, this may require
constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political ...

al or
statutory A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) ...

reforms, the development of new
political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics, and parties may promote specific political ideology ...
, increased power for
legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city. They are often contrasted with the Executive (government), executive and Judiciary, ...
s, the creation of local political units, and encouragement of
advocacy groups Advocacy groups, also known as special interest groups, use various forms of advocacy Advocacy is an activity Activity may refer to: * Action (philosophy), in general * Human activity: human behavior, in sociology behavior may refer to al ...
. A national government may decide to decentralize its authority and responsibilities for a variety of reasons. Decentralization reforms may occur for administrative reasons, when government officials decide that certain responsibilities and decisions would be handled best at the regional or local level. In democracies, traditionally
conservative Conservatism is an aesthetic Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and taste (sociology), taste, as well as the philosophy of art (its own area of philosophy that comes out of aest ...
parties include political decentralization as a directive in their platforms because rightist parties tend to advocate for a decrease in the role of central government. There is also strong evidence to support the idea that government stability increases the probability of political decentralization, since instability brought on by
gridlock Gridlock is a form of traffic congestion where "continuous queues of vehicles block an entire network of intersecting streets, bringing traffic in all directions to a complete standstill". The term originates from a situation possible in a gri ...
between opposing parties in legislatures often impedes a government's overall ability to enact sweeping reforms. The rise of regional ethnic parties in the national politics of
parliamentary democracies A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democracy, democratic government, governance of a sovereign state, state (or subordinate entity) where the Executive (government), executive derives its democratic legitimacy fro ...
is also heavily associated with the implementation of decentralization reforms. Ethnic parties may endeavor to transfer more autonomy to their respective regions, and as a partisan strategy, ruling parties within the central government may cooperate by establishing regional assemblies in order to curb the rise of ethnic parties in national elections. This phenomenon famously occurred in 1999, when the United Kingdom's
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appealed to Scottish constituents by creating a semi-autonomous
Scottish Parliament The Scottish Parliament ( gd, Pàrlamaid na h-Alba ; Scots language, Scots: ''Scots Pairlament'') is the Devolution in the United Kingdom, devolved, Unicameralism, unicameral legislature of Scotland. Located in the Holyrood, Edinburgh, Holyro ...

Scottish Parliament
in order to neutralize the threat from the increasingly popular
Scottish National Party The Scottish National Party (SNP; sco, Scots National Pairty, gd, Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba ) is a and . The SNP supports and campaigns for from the United Kingdom and for membership of the , with a platform based on . The SNP is th ...
at the national level. In addition to increasing the administrative efficacy of government and endowing citizens with more power, there are many projected advantages to political decentralization. Individuals who take advantage of their right to elect local and regional authorities have been shown to have more positive attitudes toward politics, and increased opportunities for civic decision-making through
participatory democracy Participatory democracy or participative democracy is a model of democracy in which citizens are provided power to make political decisions. Etymological roots of ''democracy'' (Greek ''wikt:demos, demos'' and ''wikt:κράτος, kratos'') imply t ...
mechanisms like public consultations and participatory budgeting are believed to help legitimize government institutions in the eyes of marginalized groups. Moreover, political decentralization is perceived as a valid means of protecting marginalized communities at a local level from the detrimental aspects of development and
globalization Globalization, or globalisation (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which ha ...

driven by the state, like the degradation of local customs, codes, and beliefs. In his 2013 book, ''
Democracy and Political Ignorance ''Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government Is Smarter'' is a 2013 book from Stanford University Press by George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin. Somin argues that people are ignorant and irrational about politics and tha ...
George Mason University George Mason University (Mason, GMU, George Mason) is a Public university, public research university flagshiped in Fairfax County, Virginia with four campuses throughout Northern Virginia and one campus in South Korea. Established in 1957 as th ...

George Mason University
law professor
Ilya Somin Ilya Somin (born 1973) is a law professor Professor (commonly abbreviated as Prof.) is an academic An academy (Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is an institution of secondary education, secondary or tertiary ...
argued that political decentralization in a
federal Federal or foederal (archaic) may refer to: Politics General *Federal monarchy, a federation of monarchies *Federation, or ''Federal state'' (federal system), a type of government characterized by both a central (federal) government and states or ...
democracy confronts the widespread issue of political ignorance by allowing citizens to engage in
foot voting Foot voting is expressing one's preferences through one's actions, by voluntarily participating in or withdrawing from an activity, group, or process; especially, physical migration to leave a situation one does not like, or to move to a situation ...
, or moving to other jurisdictions with more favorable laws. He cites the mass migration of over one million southern-born African Americans to the North or the West to evade discriminatory
Jim Crow laws Jim Crow laws were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation Racial segregation is the systematic separation of people into racial or other Ethnicity, ethnic groups in daily life. Racial segregation can amount to the intern ...
in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The
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European Union
follows the principle of
subsidiarity Subsidiarity is a principle of social organization that holds that social and political issues should be dealt with at the most immediate (or local) level that is consistent with their resolution. The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' defines subsi ...
, which holds that decision-making should be made by the most local competent authority. The EU should decide only on enumerated issues that a local or member state authority cannot address themselves. Furthermore, enforcement is exclusively the domain of member states. In Finland, the Centre Party explicitly supports decentralization. For example, government departments have been moved from the capital Helsinki to the provinces. The Centre supports substantial subsidies that limit potential economic and political centralization to Helsinki. Political decentralization does not come without its drawbacks. A study by Fan concludes that there is an increase in corruption and
rent-seeking In public-choice theory, as well as in economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumpt ...
when there are more vertical tiers in the government, as well as when there are higher levels of subnational government employment. Other studies warn of high-level politicians that may intentionally deprive regional and local authorities of power and resources when conflicts arise. In order to combat these negative forces, experts believe that political decentralization should be supplemented with other conflict management mechanisms like
power-sharing Consociationalism ( ) is a form of power sharing in a democracy. Political science, Political scientists define a consociational State (polity), state as one which has major internal divisions along ethnic, religious, or linguistic lines, with non ...
, particularly in regions with ethnic tensions.


Four major forms of administrative decentralization have been described.Different forms of decentralization
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Columbia University
, ''accessed February 5, 2013''.
* Deconcentration, the weakest form of decentralization, shifts responsibility for decision-making, finance and implementation of certain public functions from officials of central governments to those in existing districts or, if necessary, new ones under direct control of the central government. *
Delegation Schermerhorn, J., Davidson, P., Poole, D., Woods, P., Simon, A., & McBarron, E. (2017). ''Management'' (6th ed., pp. 282–286). Brisbane: John Wiley & Sons Australia. Delegation is one of the core concepts of management Management (or managi ...

passes down responsibility for decision-making, finance and implementation. It involves the creation of public-private enterprises or corporations, or of "authorities", special projects or service districts. All of them will have a great deal of decision-making discretion and they may be exempt from civil service requirements and may be permitted to charge users for services. * Devolution transfers responsibility for decision-making, finance and implementation of certain public functions to the sub-national level, such as a regional, local, or state government. * Divestment, also called privatization, may mean merely contracting out services to private companies. Or it may mean relinquishing totally all responsibility for decision-making, finance and implementation of certain public functions. Facilities will be sold off, workers transferred or fired and private companies or non-for-profit organizations allowed to provide the services. Many of these functions originally were done by private individuals, companies, or associations and later taken over by the government, either directly, or by regulating out of business entities which competed with newly created government programs.


Fiscal decentralization means decentralizing revenue raising and/or expenditure of moneys to a lower level of government while maintaining financial responsibility. While this process usually is called fiscal federalism it may be relevant to unitary, federal and confederal governments. Fiscal federalism also concerns the "vertical imbalances" where the central government gives too much or too little money to the lower levels. It actually can be a way of increasing central government control of lower levels of government, if it is not linked to other kinds of responsibilities and authority. Fiscal decentralization can be achieved through user fees, user participation through monetary or labor contributions, expansion of local property or sales taxes, intergovernmental transfers of central government tax monies to local governments through transfer payments or grant (money), grants, and authorization of municipal borrowing with national government loan guarantees. Transfers of money may be given conditionally with instructions or unconditionally without them.


Market decentralization can be done through privatization of public owned functions and businesses, as described briefly above. But it also is done through deregulation, the abolition of restrictions on businesses competing with government services, for example, postal services, schools, garbage collection. Even as private companies and corporations have worked to have such services contracted out to or privatized by them, others have worked to have these turned over to non-profit organizations or associations. Since the 1970s there has been deregulation of some industries, like banking, trucking, airlines and telecommunications which resulted generally in more competition and lower prices. According to Cato Institute, an American libertarian think-tank, in some cases deregulation in some aspects of an industry were offset by increased regulation in other aspects, the electricity industry being a prime example.Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren
, The Wall Street Journal, August 30, 2007, reprinted at Cato Institute website.
For example, in banking, Cato Institute believes some deregulation allowed banks to compete across state lines, increasing consumer choice, while an actual increase in regulators and regulations forced banks to do business the way central government regulators commanded, including making loans to individuals incapable of repaying them, leading eventually to the financial crisis of 2007–2008. One example of economic decentralization, which is based on a libertarian socialist model, is decentralized planning (economics), decentralized economic planning. Decentralized planning is a type of economic system in which decision-making is distributed amongst various economic agents or localized within production agents. An example of this method in practice is in Kerala, India which experimented in 1996 with People's Planning in Kerala, the People's Plan campaign. Some argue that government standardisation in areas from commodity market, inspection and standardized testing, testing Procurement, procurement bidding, building codes, Professional degree, professional and vocational education, trade certification, safety, etc. are necessary. Emmanuelle Auriol and Michel Benaim write about the "comparative benefits" of decentralization versus government regulation in the setting of standards. They find that while there may be a need for public regulation if public safety is at stake, private creation of standards usually is better because "regulators or 'experts' might misrepresent consumers' tastes and needs." As long as companies are averse to incompatible standards, standards will be created that satisfy needs of a modern economy.


Central governments themselves may own large tracts of land and control the forest, water, mineral, wildlife and other resources they contain. They may manage them through government operations or leasing them to private businesses; or they may neglect them to be exploited by individuals or groups who defy non-enforced laws against exploitation. It also may control most private land through land-use, zoning, environmental and other regulations. Selling off or leasing lands can be profitable for governments willing to relinquish control, but such programs can face public scrutiny because of fear of a loss of heritage or of environmental damage. Devolution of control to regional or local governments has been found to be an effective way of dealing with these concerns. Such decentralization has happened in India and other third world nations.

Ideological decentralization

Libertarian socialism

Libertarian socialism is a political philosophy that promotes a non-hierarchical, non-bureaucratic society without private property in the means of production. Libertarian socialists believe in converting present-day private productive property into the commons, common or public goods."The revolution abolishes private ownership of the means of production and distribution, and with it goes capitalistic business. Personal possession remains only in the things you use. Thus, your watch is your own, but the watch factory belongs to the people

[Alexander Berkman. "Now and After, What Is Communist Anarchism?"
Libertarian socialism is opposed to coercive forms of social organization. It promotes Free association (communism and anarchism), free association in place of government and opposes the social relations of capitalism, such as wage labor. The term ''libertarian socialism'' is used by some socialists to differentiate their philosophy from state socialism, and by some as a synonym for left anarchism.Geoffrey Ostergaard, Ostergaard, Geoffrey. "Anarchism". ''A Dictionary of Marxist Thought''. Blackwell Publishing, 1991. p. 21.Chomsky (2004) p. 739 Accordingly, libertarian socialists believe that "the exercise of Power (philosophy), power in any institutionalized form – whether economic, political, religious, or sexual – brutalizes both the wielder of power and the one over whom it is exercised". Libertarian socialists generally place their hopes in decentralized means of direct democracy such as libertarian municipalism, citizens' assemblies, or workers' councils. Libertarian socialists are strongly critical of coercive institutions, which often leads them to reject the legitimacy of the state in favor of anarchism. Adherents propose achieving this through decentralization of political and economic power, usually involving the socialization of most large-scale private property and enterprise (while retaining respect for personal property). Libertarian socialism tends to deny the legitimacy of most forms of economically significant private property, viewing capitalist property relations as forms of domination that are antagonistic to individual freedom. Political philosophies commonly described as libertarian socialist include most varieties of anarchism (especially anarcho-communism, Collectivist anarchism, anarchist collectivism, anarcho-syndicalism, social anarchism and Mutualism (economic theory), mutualism) as well as autonomism, communalism, participism, libertarian Marxist philosophies such as council communism and Luxemburgism,Murray Bookchin, ''Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism''; Robert Graham (historian), Robert Graham, ''The General Idea of Proudhon's Revolution'' and some versions of utopian socialism and individualist anarchism. For
Murray Bookchin Murray Bookchin (January 14, 1921 – July 30, 2006) was an American anarchist, political philosopher, trade-union organizer, and educator. A pioneer in the environmental movement, Bookchin formulated and developed the theory of social ec ...

Murray Bookchin
"In the modern world, anarchism first appeared as a movement of the peasantry and yeomanry against declining feudal institutions. In Germany its foremost spokesman during the Peasant Wars was Thomas Muenzer; in England, Gerrard Winstanley, a leading participant in the Digger movement. The concepts held by Muenzer and Winstanley were superbly attuned to the needs of their time – a historical period when the majority of the population lived in the countryside and when the most militant revolutionary forces came from an agrarian world. It would be painfully academic to argue whether Muenzer and Winstanley could have achieved their ideals. What is of real importance is that they spoke to their time; their anarchist concepts followed naturally from the rural society that furnished the bands of the peasant armies in Germany and the New Model in England." The term "anarchist" first entered the English language in 1642, during the English Civil War, as a Pejorative, term of abuse, used by Cavalier, Royalists against their Roundhead opponents. By the time of the French Revolution some, such as the ''Enragés'', began to use the term positively, in opposition to Jacobin (politics), Jacobin centralisation of power, seeing "revolutionary government" as oxymoronic. By the turn of the 19th century, the English word "anarchism" had lost its initial negative connotation. For
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (, , ; 15 January 1809, Besançon – 19 January 1865, Paris Paris () is the Capital city, capital and List of communes in France with over 20,000 inhabitants, most populous city of France, with an estimated popu ...

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
, Mutualism (economic theory), mutualism involved creating "industrial democracy", a system where workplaces would be "handed over to democratically organised workers' associations . . . We want these associations to be models for agriculture, industry and trade, the pioneering core of that vast federation of companies and societies woven into the common cloth of the democratic social Republic." He urged "workers to form themselves into democratic societies, with equal conditions for all members, on pain of a relapse into feudalism." This would result in "Capitalistic and proprietary exploitation, stopped everywhere, the wage system abolished, equal and just exchange guaranteed." Workers would no longer sell their labour to a capitalist but rather work for themselves in co-operatives. Anarcho-communism calls for a Federalism#Federalism as the Anarchist Mode of Political Organization, confederal form in relationships of mutual aid and Free association (communism and anarchism), free association between communes as an alternative to the centralism of the nation-state. Peter Kropotkin thus suggested that "Representative government has accomplished its historical mission; it has given a mortal blow to court-rule; and by its debates it has awakened public interest in public questions. But to see in it the government of the future socialist society is to commit a gross error. Each economic phase of life implies its own political phase; and it is impossible to touch the very basis of the present economic life-private property – without a corresponding change in the very basis of the political organization. Life already shows in which direction the change will be made. Not in increasing the powers of the State, but in resorting to free organization and free federation in all those branches which are now considered as attributes of the State." When the First Spanish Republic was established in 1873 after the abdication of King Amadeo, the first president, Estanislao Figueras, named Francesc Pi i Margall Minister of the Interior. His acquaintance with Proudhon enabled Pi to warm relations between the Republicans and the socialists in Spain. Pi i Margall became the principal translator of Proudhon's works into Spanish and later briefly became president of Spain in 1873 while being the leader of the Democratic Republican Federal Party. According to George Woodcock "These translations were to have a profound and lasting effect on the development of Spanish anarchism after 1870, but before that time Proudhonian ideas, as interpreted by Pi, already provided much of the inspiration for the federalist movement which sprang up in the early 1860s." According to the ''Encyclopædia Britannica'' "During the Spanish revolution of 1873, Pi y Margall Cantonal Revolution, attempted to establish a decentralized, cantonalist political system on Proudhonian lines." To date, the best-known examples of an anarchist communist society (i.e., established around the ideas as they exist today and achieving worldwide attention and knowledge in the historical canon), are the anarchist territories during the Spanish Revolution of 1936, Spanish Revolution"This process of education and class organization, more than any single factor in Spain, produced the collectives. And to the degree that the CNT-FAI (for the two organizations became fatally coupled after July 1936) exercised the major influence in an area, the collectives proved to be generally more durable, communist and resistant to Stalinist counterrevolution than other republican-held areas of Spain.
Murray Bookchin
''To Remember Spain: The Anarchist and Syndicalist Revolution of 1936'']
and the Free Territory during the Russian Revolution (1917), Russian Revolution. Through the efforts and influence of the Spanish Anarchists during the Spanish Revolution of 1936, Spanish Revolution within the Spanish Civil War, starting in 1936 anarchist communism existed in most of Aragon, parts of the Levante and Andalusia, as well as in the stronghold of Anarchist Catalonia before being crushed by the combined forces of Francoism, the regime that won the war, Adolf Hitler, Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Mussolini, Communist Party of Spain (main), Spanish Communist Party repression (backed by the USSR) as well as economic and armaments blockades from the capitalist countries and the Second Spanish Republic itself. During the Russian Revolution, anarchists such as Nestor Makhno worked to create and defend – through the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine – anarchist communism in the Free Territory of Ukraine from 1919 before being conquered by the Bolsheviks in 1921. Several libertarian socialists, notably Noam Chomsky among others, believe that anarchism shares much in common with certain variants of Marxism (see libertarian Marxism) such as the council communism of Marxist Anton Pannekoek. In Chomsky's ''Notes on Anarchism'',Noam Chomsk
Notes on Anarchism
he suggests the possibility "that some form of council communism is the natural form of revolutionary socialism in an industrialization, industrial society. It reflects the belief that democracy is severely limited when the industrial system is controlled by any form of autocratic elite, whether of owners, managers, and technocrats, a 'Vanguard party, vanguard' party, or a State bureaucracy."

Free market

Free market ideas popular in the 19th century such as those of Adam Smith returned to prominence in the 1970s and 1980s. Austrian School economist Friedrich von Hayek argued that free markets themselves are decentralized systems where outcomes are produced without explicit agreement or coordination by individuals who use prices as their guide. Eleanor Doyle writes that "[e]conomic decision-making in free markets is decentralized across all the individuals dispersed in each market and is synchronized or coordinated by the price system," and holds that an individual right to property is part of this decentralized system. Criticizing central government control, Hayek wrote in ''The Road to Serfdom'': According to Bruce M. Owen, this does not mean that all firms themselves have to be equally decentralized. He writes: "markets allocate resources through arms-length transactions among decentralized actors. Much of the time, markets work very efficiently, but there is a variety of conditions under which firms do better. Hence, goods and services are produced and sold by firms with various degrees of horizontal and vertical integration." Additionally, he writes that the "economic incentive to expand horizontally or vertically is usually, but not always, compatible with the social interest in maximizing long-run consumer welfare." When it does not, he writes regulation may be necessary.Bruce M. Owen
Antecedents to Net Neutrality
, Cato Institute publication "Regulation", Fall, 2007, p. 16.
It is often claimed that free markets and private property generate centralized monopolies and other ills; free market advocates counter with the argument that government is the source of monopoly. Historian Gabriel Kolko in his book ''The Triumph of Conservatism'' argued that in the first decade of the 20th century businesses were highly decentralized and competitive, with new businesses constantly entering existing industries. In his view, there was no trend towards concentration and monopolization. While there were a wave of mergers of companies trying to corner markets, they found there was too much competition to do so. According to Kolko, this was also true in banking and finance, which saw decentralization as leading to instability as state and local banks competed with the big New York City firms. He argues that, as a result, the largest firms turned to the power of the state and worked with leaders like United States Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft and Woodrow Wilson to pass as "progressive reforms" centralizing laws like The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 that gave control of the monetary system to the wealthiest bankers; the formation of monopoly "public utilities" that made competition with those monopolies illegal; federal inspection of meat packers biased against small companies; extending Interstate Commerce Commission to regulating telephone companies and keeping rates high to benefit AT&T; and using the Sherman Antitrust Act against companies which might combine to threaten larger or monopoly companies. D. T. Armentano, writing for the Cato Institute, argues that when government licensing, franchises, and other legal restrictions create monopoly and protect companies from open competition, deregulation is the solution. Author and activist Jane Jacobs's influential 1961 book ''The Death and Life of American Cities'' criticized large-scale redevelopment projects which were part of government-planned decentralization of population and businesses to suburbs. She believed it destroyed cities' economies and impoverished remaining residents. Her 1980 book ''The Question of Separatism: Quebec and the Struggle over Sovereignty'' supported secession of Quebec from Canada. Her 1984 book ''Cities and the Wealth of Nations'' proposed a solution to the problems faced by cities whose economies were being ruined by centralized national governments: decentralization through the "multiplication of sovereignties", meaning an acceptance of the right of cities to secede from the larger nation states that were greatly limiting their ability to produce wealth.

Technological decentralization

''Technological decentralization'' can be defined as a shift from concentrated to distributed modes of production and consumption of goods and services. Generally, such shifts are accompanied by transformations in technology and different technologies are applied for either system. Technology includes tools, materials, skills, techniques and processes by which goals are accomplished in the public and private spheres. Concepts of decentralization of technology are used throughout Outline of technology, all types of technology, including especially information technology and appropriate technology. Technologies often mentioned as best implemented in a decentralized manner, include: water purification, delivery and waste water disposal, agricultural technology and energy technology. Advancing technology may allow decentralized, privatized and free market solutions for what have been public services, such utilities producing and/or delivering power, water, mail, telecommunications and services like consumer product safety, money and banking, medical licensing and detection and metering technologies for highways, parking, and auto emissions. However, in terms of technology, a clear distinction between fully centralized or decentralized technical solutions is often not possible and therefore finding an optimal degree of centralization difficult from an Planning, infrastructure planning perspective.

Information technology

Information technology encompasses computers and computer networks, as well as information distribution technologies such as television and telephones. The whole computer industry of computer hardware, software, electronics, internet, telecommunications equipment, e-commerce and computer services are included. Executives and managers face a constant tension between centralizing and decentralizing information technology for their organizations. They must find the right balance of centralizing which lowers costs and allows more control by upper management, and decentralizing which allows sub-units and users more control. This will depend on analysis of the specific situation. Decentralization is particularly applicable to business or management units which have a high level of independence, complicated products and customers, and technology less relevant to other units. Information technology applied to government communications with citizens, often called e-Government, is supposed to support decentralization and democratization. Various forms have been instituted in most nations worldwide. The internet is an example of an extremely decentralized network, having no owners at all (although some have argued that this is less the case in recent years). "No one is in charge of internet, and everyone is." As long as they follow a certain minimal number of rules, anyone can be a service provider or a user. Voluntary boards establish protocols, but cannot stop anyone from developing new ones. Other examples of open source or decentralized movements are Wikis which allow users to add, modify, or delete content via the internet. Wikipedia has been described as decentralized. Smartphones have greatly increased the role of decentralized Social networking service, social network services in daily lives worldwide. Decentralization continues throughout the industry, for example as the decentralized architecture of wireless routers installed in homes and offices supplement and even replace phone companies' relatively centralized long-range cell towers. Inspired by system and cybernetics theorists like Norbert Wiener, Marshall McLuhan and Buckminster Fuller, in the 1960s Stewart Brand started the Whole Earth Catalog and later computer networking efforts to bring Silicon Valley computer technologists and entrepreneurs together with countercultural ideas. This resulted in ideas like Personal computer, personal computing, Virtual community, virtual communities and the vision of an "electronic frontier" which would be a more decentralized, egalitarian and free-market libertarian society. Related ideas coming out of Silicon Valley included the free software and creative commons movements which produced visions of a "networked information economy". Because human interactions in cyberspace transcend physical geography, there is a necessity for new theories in legal and other rule-making systems to deal with decentralized decision-making processes in such systems. For example, what rules should apply to conduct on the global digital network and who should set them? The laws of which nations govern issues of internet transactions (like seller disclosure requirements or definitions of "fraud"), copyright and trademark?

Centralization and redecentralization of the Internet

The New Yorker reports that although the Internet was originally decentralized, in recent years it has become less so: "a staggering percentage of communications flow through a small set of corporations – and thus, under the profound influence of those companies and other institutions [...] One solution, espoused by some programmers, is to make the Internet more like it used to be – less centralized and more distributed." Examples of projects that attempt to contribute to the redecentralization of the Internet include ArkOS, Diaspora (social network), Diaspora, FreedomBox, IndieWeb, Namecoin, SAFE Network, twtxt and ZeroNet as well as advocacy group Redecentralize.org, which provides support for projects that aim to make the Web less centralized. In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live one of the co-founders of Redecentralize.org explained that:

= Blockchain technology

= In blockchain, decentralization refers to the transfer of control and decision-making from a centralized entity (individual, organization, or group thereof) to a distributed network. Decentralized networks strive to reduce the level of trust that participants must place in one another, and deter their ability to exert authority or control over one another in ways that degrade the functionality of the network. Bitcoin is the original implementation of a blockchain where proof-of-work is used as a means of establishing decentralized consensus (aka. Nakamoto consensus), thus enabling the uniqueness of its intrinsic digital asset and utility as a scarce cryptocurrency. Decentralized protocols, applications, and ledgers (used in Web3) could be more difficult for governments to control, censor, or regulate as has been seen with BitTorrent.

Appropriate technology

"Appropriate technology", originally described as "intermediate technology" by economist E. F. Schumacher in '' Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered'', is generally recognized as encompassing technologies that are small-scale, decentralized, labor-intensive, energy-efficient, environmentally sound, and locally controlled.


Factors hindering decentralization include weak local administrative or technical capacity, which may result in inefficient or ineffective services; inadequate financial resources available to perform new local responsibilities, especially in the start-up phase when they are most needed; or inequitable distribution of resources. Decentralization can make national policy coordination too complex; it may allow local elites to capture functions; local cooperation may be undermined by any distrust between private and public sectors; decentralization may result in higher enforcement costs and conflict for resources if there is no higher level of authority.Chapter 2. Decentralization and environmental issues
, "Environment in decentralized development", United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization ("FAO"), ''accessed February 23, 2013''; also se
Environment in Decentralized Decision Making, An Overview
, Agricultural Policy Support Service, Policy Assistance Division, FAO, Rome, Italy, November 2005.
Additionally, decentralization may not be as efficient for standardized, routine, network-based services, as opposed to those that need more complicated inputs. If there is a loss of economies of scale in procurement of labor or resources, the expense of decentralization can rise, even as central governments lose control over financial resources. Other challenges, and even dangers, include the possibility that corrupt local elites can capture regional or local power centers, while constituents lose representation; patronage politics will become rampant and civil servants feel compromised; further necessary decentralization can be stymied; incomplete information and hidden decision-making can occur up and down the hierarchies; centralized power centers can find reasons to frustrate decentralization and bring power back to themselves. It has been noted that while decentralization may increase "productive efficiency" it may undermine "allocative efficiency" by making redistribution of wealth more difficult. Decentralization will cause greater disparities between rich and poor regions, especially during times of crisis when the national government may not be able to help regions needing it.


The literature identifies the following eight essential preconditions that must be ensured while implementing decentralization in order to avert the "dangers of decentralization": # Social Preparedness and Mechanisms to Prevent Elite Capture # Strong Administrative and Technical Capacity at the Higher Levels # Strong Political Commitment at the Higher Levels # Sustained Initiatives for Capacity-Building at the Local Level # Strong Legal Framework for Transparency and Accountability # Transformation of Local Government Organizations into High Performing Organizations # Appropriate Reasons to Decentralize: Intentions Matter # Effective Judicial System, Citizens' Oversight and Anticorruption Bodies to prevent Decentralization of Corruption

See also

* Centralization * Federalism * Subsidiarity


Further reading

* Aucoin, Peter, and Herman Bakvis. ''The Centralization-Decentralization Conundrum: Organization and Management in the Canadian Government'' (IRPP, 1988), * Campbell, Tim. ''Quiet Revolution: Decentralization and the Rise of Political Participation in Latin American Cities'' (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003), . * Faguet, Jean-Paul. ''Decentralization and Popular Democracy: Governance from Below in Bolivia'', (University of Michigan Press, 2012), . * Fisman, Raymond and Roberta Gatti (2000)
Decentralization and Corruption: Evidence Across Countries
''Journal of Public Economics'', Vol.83, No.3, pp. 325–45. * Frischmann, Eva
Decentralization and Corruption. A Cross-Country Analysis
(Grin Verlag, 2010), . * Miller, Michelle Ann, ed.
Autonomy and Armed Separatism in South and Southeast Asia
' (Singapore: ISEAS, 2012). * Miller, Michelle Ann.
Rebellion and Reform in Indonesia. Jakarta's Security and Autonomy Policies in Aceh
' (London and New York: Routledge, 2009). * Rosen, Harvey S., ed.. ''Fiscal Federalism: Quantitative Studies National Bureau of Economic Research Project Report'', NBER-Project Report, (University of Chicago Press, 2008), . * Jeff Taylor (politician), Taylor, Jeff. ''Politics on a Human Scale: The American Tradition of Decentralism'' (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2013), . * Richard M. Burton, Børge Obel, ''Design Models for Hierarchical Organizations: Computation, Information, and Decentralization'', Springer, 1995, * * * Merilee Serrill Grindle, ''Going Local: Decentralization, Democratization, And The Promise of Good Governance'', Princeton University Press, 2007, * * Daniel Treisman, ''The Architecture of Government: Rethinking Political Decentralization'', ''Cambridge University Press'', 2007, * * * *
Sharma, Chanchal Kumar(2014, Nov.12). Governance, Governmentality and Governability: Constraints and Possibilities of Decentralization in South Asia. Keynote Address, International Conference on Local Representation of Power in South Asia, Organized by Department of Political Science, GC University, Lahore (Pakistan) Nov. 12–14.
* Schakel, Arjan H. (2008)
Validation of the Regional Authority Index
Regional and Federal Studies, Routledge, Vol. 18 (2).
article at the
Restructuring local government project
of Dr. Mildred Warner,
Cornell University Cornell University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly two ...
includes a number of articles on decentralization trends and theories. * Robert J. Bennett, ed., ''Decentralization, Intergovernmental Relations and Markets: Towards a Post-Welfare Agenda,'' Clarendon, 1990, pp. 1–26.

External links

* * {{authority control Decentralization, Organizational theory Cyberpunk themes