The first thing we are going to do in order to understand the meaning of the term decentralization is to discover its etymological origin. In this case, we can state that it derives from Latin and that it is the result of the sum of the following components:
-The prefix “des-”, which is used to indicate the reversal of the action.
-The noun “center”.
-The ending “-izar”, which comes to express “convert into”.
-The suffix “-cion”, which is used to indicate “action and effect”.
Decentralization is the act and consequence of decentralizing: delegating part of the power that a central body used to exercise to different entities or corporations. Decentralization implies a division or apportionment of authority. See Abbreviation Finder for acronyms related to Decentralization.
The idea of decentralization can refer to a distribution of power or authority.
Decentralization as transfer of power
In the field of politics, decentralization consists of a transfer of power from the central government to various authorities that are not subordinate at the hierarchical level. This means that, within their scope of interference, these authorities can make autonomous decisions.
If the state is centrally organized, local rulers are agents of the national government. In contrast, in a decentralized state, local governments can decide independently according to their powers.
Through decentralization, in this way, the central authority transfers powers and resources to decentralized authorities that carry out independent and autarchic management.
Although it is usually used above all in politics, the idea of decentralization is also used in other areas.
When we talk about the decentralization of the State we have to establish that there are various forms of it, among which the following stand out:
-Functional decentralization, which is what occurs when the corresponding body is recognized for what are specific powers of a single sector of activity in particular.
-Horizontal decentralization, which is carried out by dispersing power among different institutions that have the peculiarity that they are at the same level.
-Vertical decentralization, which is what takes place when the power of the central government is delegated to lower levels, whether they are autonomous communities or localities, for example.
-Administrative decentralization, which consists of transferring powers from the Central State Administration to other “legal entities” framed within what is Public Law.
Likewise, we cannot forget the existence of fiscal decentralization, mixed decentralization or the so-called political decentralization, among others.
Political decentralization, for example, establishes government bodies according to a territorial basis. There may be, in this framework, municipalities with their own legislative bodies that issue ordinances; these municipalities are part of provinces that have provincial legislators; the provinces, in turn, make up a country organized as a federal republic with national deputies and senators.
The councilors of a municipality, therefore, can issue ordinances that only apply in the commune in question. These ordinances cannot contradict the principles of provincial regulations, which in turn are subject to the ordering of national laws.
Other uses of the concept
The idea of decentralization can also be applied to other contexts.
Decentralized education, to cite one case, contemplates that knowledge can be generated and transmitted vertically but also horizontally, without depending on a single source of knowledge that is located at a higher level.