This article examines Martha Derthick’s view of the American federal system as developed primarily in her book Keeping the Compound Republic, focusing on the system’s enduring features and evolution in the twentieth century and considering the value of the compound republic and what is necessary to sustain it. Derthick’s understanding of federalism, which was shaped in important ways by her mentor Edward C. Banfield, favors a pragmatic blending and balancing of national and federal elements to create healthy communities with the objective of fostering self-government. This understanding rejects three popular notions of federalism—federalism as policy efficiency, states’ rights federalism, and political process federalism. In contrast with these alternative approaches, Derthick develops a principled stand for federalism that opposes commandeering of states and supports representative self-government.

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