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US Politics – Federalism

5. Dual and Co-Operative Federalism

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In this module, we explore dual and co-operative federalism, focusing in particular on: (i) the key features of dual federalism, including that the federal govt has limited enumerated powers; (ii) the role of key Supreme Court cases of the nineteenth century in developing American federalism, e.g. Sturges v. Crowninshield; (iii) the federal context to the American Civil War; (iv) the idea that states were the primary regulators of the US economy until the 1930s; (v) the acceleration of Co-Operative federalism from 1932 to 1968; (vi) characterisations of Dual Federalism as being similar to a layer cake, and Co-Operative federalism similar to a marble cake; (vii) practical examples of Co-Operative federalism and its economic dimension, e.g. in federal aid grants.


In this course, Professor John Kincaid (Lafayette College) explores the theory and practice of federalism in the United States. In the first module, we lay the groundwork for later modules by establishing just what we mean when we refer to federalism. Then, in the second module, we dive deeper into the specifics of American federalism, before in the third module using the US Constitution as our “way in” to thinking about federalism and Congress. In the fourth module, we similarly use the US Constitution as our “way in” to thinking about federalism, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court, focusing in particular on debates around the Electoral College and the vital role of the Supreme Court as “guardians of the Constitution”. In the fifth module, we explore dual and co-operative federalism, before exploring, in the sixth and final module, coercive or regulatory federalism. Ultimately, the fact that dual, co-operative, and regulatory or coercive federalism can all co-exist simultaneously is emphasised, and examples are given for the role of each in modern America.


Professor John Kincaid is the Robert B. and Helen S. Meyner Professor of Government and Public Service at Lafayette College. He is also the President of the Center for the Study of Federalism, an elected fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, and a co-editor of the Routledge Book Series on Federalism and Decentralization. He has testified before the U.S. Congress on intergovernmental matters, and recently published an article on 'Partisan Fractures in U.S. Federalism’s COVID-19 Policy Responses'.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Kincaid, J. (2022, May 17). US Politics – Federalism - Dual and Co-Operative Federalism [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Kincaid, J. "US Politics – Federalism – Dual and Co-Operative Federalism." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 20 Jun 2022,

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