Aaron Wildavsky well understood that federalism is about freedom and diversity - not hierarchy and decentralization. His was an intensely normative concern with the promise of federalism and its abandonment in the United States. Over time, he became increasingly focused on political culture, federalism, and the Western domains of social life as fields of cultural competition. Although his interest in federalism was overshadowed by his work on political culture, it remained a visible theme in his writing.
Federalism and Political Culture is a collection of Wildavsky's essays on federalism over the latter part of his career. It is the second in a series, of his posthumous collected writings. Federalism is not a conventional collection on comparative federal systems, but deals with what federalism means, how it should work, and how it has been abused by those in power who protested their commitment to federal principles and practices but acted otherwise. Wildavsky's analyses concentrate mainly on American federalism after the Great Society of the 1960s which brought major changes to the American federal system. The essays trace the progress of his thought as he first argues that true federalism is noncentralization, then to federalism as competition, and then combines both in reasserting that real federalism is possible only in a confederation.