Difference between Federation and Confederation

Difference between Federation and Confederation

If the states have to submit their authority to one common central government, we refer to that as a federation. The states should accept that all subordinate authority is in the central government.

Federation Vs. Confederation

The main difference is that the members of the state have to submit to the central government in a federation while they own this sovereignty in a confederation. The central government in a confederation is not under one ruler. Every member of the state is accountable.

A confederation comprises several sovereign states coming together. Every member of this confederation has a right to withdraw when need be. A federation on the other hand reserves the authority and sovereignty to one single state.

Comparison between Federation and Confederation

  • Submission of authority and submission in a federation is given to the federal government. Every member of the state retains primary authority in a confederation.
  • A federation has an extremely powerful central government while that of a confederation is extremely weak.
  • Rights of sovereignty in a federal government can be stopped or withdrawn while the members of the state can reserve those in a confederation.
  • In a federation, members of the state do not easily withdraw themselves, as the legal terms of alliance are stringent. A confederation on the other hand allows the members of the state to withdraw whenever they please.
  • The constitutional powers act as a guide for the federal government to exercise its power and supremacy. A confederation only allows the exercise of power over the specific issue that the state mandates.
  • Federal governments allow dual citizenship for their citizens while the same is prohibited in a confederation.
  • Federations are popular and are exercised in many parts of the world. Confederations on the other hand had their popularity in the olden days and not now.

What is a Federation?

When several constituents’ states come together and agree on submitting being answerable to one central government, we refer to that as a federation. The powers possessed by this central government include defense, foreign affairs, national security, and finance.

The central government does not allow members of the constituents to secede or withdraw. Instead, it allows a certain degree of autonomy to be retained by them. The states are strongly bound together by the legal states. The division of power between the constituents and the federal government is guided by a written constitution. The federal government makes all binding decisions on the members of the state.

Federations are systems that have been adopted by former confederations. These former confederations include Russia, Germany, and America. The moments these federations adapted to this new system of supremacy, they put an end to their confederations. Major popular countries have opted for the federal way of life.

What is a Confederation?

Several voluntary alliances formed to work together to achieve certain goals are called confederations. The goals may be political, economical, cultural, or social objective goals. Should members of the coalition feel dissatisfied by these set goals and objectives, they usually feel to withdraw.

Sovereignty and authority are solely possessed by the constituent states. The selected figurehead selected by the central organization is normally free from any kind of power. The only powers the figurehead selected can exercise are those that have been authorized by the states. The states make it easy for communication and administrative roles to flow. All members of the states remain accountable.

The states retain all the important legislative areas making them the real center of power. Only a few states are known to have adopted the confederation system. Most but not all international organizations including the United Nations and the European Union operate under the confederation system.

Difference between Federation and Confederation

  • A federation vests all its authority and sovereignty in its federal government while a confederation gives its supremacy to its member states.
  • A confederation’s nominally appointed figurehead is usually by the central government. Real powers, however, regardless of this appointment are usually held by the member countries. A confederation comprises a very weak government while rules in a federation are stringent and should be followed to the letter.
  • In a confederation, member autonomy is an extremely significant issue. The same does not apply for a federation as the member-only sacrifices a part of their autonomy for the government.
  • Powers in a federal government can be exercised in national security, defense, foreign policy finance, and other categories. A confederation on the other hand, due to its weak exercise of power can only exercise them in categories mandated by the member states.
  • Member states who are a part of a federal government do not have the freedom or the authority to withdraw from their positions due to its stringent measures. In a confederation, members can withdraw as long as what they are meant to abide in does not satisfy them. As long as the rules set are non-impactful or bring no gain, members can withdraw as they wish.
  • Federations are popular as they are practiced by extremely famous states. Confederations on the other hand are yet to gain popularity.
  • Dual citizenship is permissible in a federal government but is completely against the rules of a confederation. Members of a state of a confederation should maintain one citizenship, and that is in their respective countries and states.


In conclusion, the terms federation and confederation have initially been used interchangeably. People have often confused them but it is clear that they have a lot of differences and little to no similarities in their way of operation.

They have a close relationship. What you need to understand to know the difference is how they exercise their sovereignty. In a federation, all power and authority are given to the federal government. Every member of the state is answerable to the federal government and there is no room for seceding. This helps to give a federation its stability.

A confederation on the other hand allows for withdrawal as it is a structure that is voluntarily formed with the aim of achieving certain set goals.