Dead or Alive? The Federalism Revolution and Its Meaning for Public Administration


Robert K. Christensen is an assistant professor of political science and serves the master of public administration and PhD in public policy programs at University of North Carolina–Charlotte. Interested in institutional precursors of public and nonprofi t performance, his research focuses on the intersection of public law, policy, and public and nonprofi t administration. He is a past recipient of the John A. Rohr Fellowship.

Charles R. Wise is director of the John Glenn School of Public Affairs and a professor of public affairs at the Ohio State University. He has served as managing editor of Public Administration Review and has received the William E. Mosher and Frederick C. Mosher Award for best article in the Public Administration Review three times.


Federalism jurisprudence shapes the powers that public administrators have to achieve policy priorities. Federalism, however, is neither static nor simplistic as a concept, and a proper understanding of the environment in which public administrators work rests on a careful analysis of U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The authors review claims that a 2005 decision, Gonzales v. Raich, terminated a federalism revolution that had been ushered in a decade earlier. Does Raich in fact mark the end of the Supreme Court's federalism doctrine? Analysis of this question clarifies whether the past and current Court has articulated any direction touching on administrators' powers at both the national and state levels. The authors argue that before the federalism revolution is declared dead or alive, public administration can better understand the realities of the Supreme Court's doctrinal boundaries by examining a more detailed analysis of jurisprudence for what is says about the foundations of federalism such as the commerce clause, Fourteenth Amendment, Tenth Amendment, Eleventh Amendment, spending clause, and statutory interpretation issues.