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Why centralisation? A comparative analysis of the Swiss cantons

Mueller, Sean (2013) Why centralisation? A comparative analysis of the Swiss cantons. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94546) (KAR id:94546)

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This thesis seeks to explain the distribution of powers and responsibilities between levels of government on a territorially different basis. Such (de)centralisation is conceptualised in an innovative way as a continuum with three dimensions: an institutional or polity, a functional or policy-, and an actor and process oriented or politics-dimension. In order to explain (de)centralisation I further propose an original perspective, combining three hitherto isolated app roaches. This theoretical framework is subsequently tested by analysing decentralisation within the 26 Swiss cantons. I first provide a quantitative measure of cantonal decentralisation's three dimensions and integrate them into a single, composite index. Second, cantonal decentralisation is "predicted" using linear regression. Three significant independent variables emerge: political culture, area, and the strength of left-wing parties. Third, using a historical institutionalist approach ("process tracing"), I study four cantons - Vaud, Berne, Schwyz, and Grisons - over time to move from identifying correlation to establish causation. The results of this qualitative endeavour fully confirm my quantitative model. The thesis also compares the same four cantons in asking whether and what kind of difference decentralisation actually makes to cantonal politics (so what). Finally, based on this twofold explanation and contemporary observation I develop an explanatory typology comprising all 26 cantons and draw several implications, thus linking empirical evidence to theoretical propositions. In presenting the first ever comprehensive and systematic comparison of Swiss cantonal decentralisation, I am therefore also able to draw causal inferences for (de)centralisation as such. The thesis concludes by urging future federalism and territorial politics studies to a) reconceptualise decentralisation into three distinct but related dimensions and to b) bridge the theoretical gap between socio-cultural, structural and party-political approaches to achieve more valid and reliable explanations of territorial governance .

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94546
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Decentralisation, Swiss cantons, federalism, comparative politics
Subjects: J Political Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2022 09:59 UTC
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2022 11:06 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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