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date: 23 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter distinguishes three perspectives on the study of sub-national politics: a polity-centered, a systemic, and a regionalist perspective. Most fundamentally, scholars of sub-national politics tend to approach state governments either as self-contained polities or as embedded units. The first polity-centered perspective is defined by its conceptualization of state governments as self-contained ‘political systems’. The literature approaching state governments as embedded entities can be further subdivided in two strands. The systemic perspective conceptualizes state governments as part of one sub-national governmental level that faces the federal or central government as main counter-player. The regionalist perspective, in contrast, looks at forms of cooperation amongst different subsets of state or regional governments. Assessing case studies and comparative work within these three strands allows us to identify existing caveats in the literature and to put the work on American sub-national politics in the context of existing cross-national research.

Keywords: vertical federal-state relations, regional cooperation, regionalism, horizontal intergovernmental relations, state politics, comparative perspectives

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