Authors: Bobbio, Matteucci, Pasquino
Summary: This entry defines centralization and decentralization, distinguishes between them, and discusses the difference between political and administrative decentralization. The entry concentrates on the Italian political-administrative experience.
Centralization and decentralization are ideal types, and in reality are never found in their pure forms. Thus, even in a situation of centralization, one will note that local authorities and peripheral organs retain some power. And even in a situation of decentralization, in which central State organs have little power, they will retain an amount indispensable for maintaining their rule.
There is an important distinction between political and administrative decentralization. Political decentralization implies the idea of autonomous law and loss of unity of law. Administrative decentralization refers to the derivation of administrative powers from the State. In contemporary society, the prevailing trend is toward decentralization, which is seen as in keeping with the process of democratization.
The entry concludes by considering the Italian administrative system. Italy's political structure and its constitution tend to promote both political and administrative decentralization.