43: Centralization/Decentralization Debate – The Federalist Papers


For this episode, we decided to do something very different! A debate about centralization vs. decentralization in organizations using a very important historical document as our lens. The theme for the debate, and the debate questions are kindly provided by Todd Bridgman and Stephen Cummings, authors of The New History of Management

Two teams. Four podcasters. Red versus Blue. Ralph and Pedro vs Dmitrijs and Tom… a prime-time event, epic showdown and battle royale all rolled into one! Centralization or De-centralization? Which is the way to go? Which way will you go?

The Federalist Papers was a series of writings from American history leading up to its current Constitution, completed in 1787. Formed as thirteen separate colonies, this newly independent nation tried to form a central government that granted maximum autonomy to the States to prevent the emergence of an American monarchy.

It quickly failed as the central government was left too weak to perform its basic duties and the nation risked falling apart. Prominent writers like Alexander Hamilton and James Madison developed a series of papers arguing for a new Constitution with a much stronger central government. Two of them – Federalist #9 by Hamilton and Federalist #10 by Madison – present cogent arguments in favor of centralization. Meanwhile, the so-called Anti-Federalists continued to press for States’ rights and individual liberties.

Who will win? Find out as the podcasters debate this issue that is relevant and current, yet as old as government itself.

You may also download the audio files here:  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Appendix (Text version here)

Read with us:

Hamilton, A. (1787). The union as a safeguard against domestic faction and insurrection. Federalist #9. Albany, NY: The Independent Journal.

Madison, J. (1787). The same subject continued: The union as a safeguard against domestic faction and insurrection. Federalist #10. New York: The New York Packet.

Works referenced during the episode:

Abbott, A. (1989). The system of professions. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press. 

Bridgman, T., Cummings, S. and Ballard, J.A., (2018) Who Built Maslow’s Pyramid? A History of the Creation of Management Studies’ Most Famous Symbol and Its Implications for Management Education. Academy of Management Learning & Education

Cummings, S., (1995). Centralization and decentralization: The neverending story of separation and betrayal. Scandinavian Journal of Management11(2), pp.103-117.

Cummings, S., Bridgman, T., Hassard, J. and Rowlinson, M., (2017). A new history of management. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lewis, M. (2000). Exploring paradox: Toward a more comprehensive guide. Academy of Management Review 25(4), 760-776.

Luescher, L. S. & Lewis, M. (2008). Organizational change and managerial sensemaking: Working through paradox. Academy of Management Journal 51(2), 221-240.

Van de Ven, A. H. & Poole, M. S. (1995). Explaining development and change in organizations. Academy of Management Review 20(3), 510-540.