Difference Between Federation and Association

Federation vs Association

Federation and Association, though seemingly appear to have similar meanings, there is some difference between them. Contrary to popular opinion, Federation and Association are not synonyms. In fact, they are essentially two terms that represent entirely different meanings. The confusion lies in understanding both terms to mean the formation of a group of people or entities. Many of us immediately think of the United States of America when we hear the word ‘Federation’. On the other hand, the term ‘Association’ is a word that is commonly heard even in small societies. The key to identifying the difference between federation and association is in understanding the definitions of both terms.

What is a Federation?

The term Federation is primarily defined as the coming together of a group of states or the formation of a political entity by a number of states. This political entity comprises a central government although the states that make up the political entity still retain control or authority over its own internal affairs. In the case of the United States, it is a country formed by the union of 50 states that have accorded power to a central authority, also known as the federal government. Although the federal government exercises overall control, these states still retain control over their own home affairs. Australia is another example for federation. In a Federation, the division of power between states and the central or federal government is recognized in written form through the country’s constitution. Further, the constitution also recognizes the independent status of the states or provinces to maintain control over or manage their own affairs.

Federation can be broadly defined as a large body of groups, entities or states that have acknowledged the existence of a central authority governing them, but still having the power to exercise control within and over their own groups.

Difference Between Federation and Association_Australia Federation Ribbon

What is an Association?

The term Association, on the other hand, does not evoke the same kind of weighty feeling abounding out of the word Federation. In fact, it is a term that is used even in smaller circles of society often referring to formal groups of people or individuals. An Association is defined as an organization or grouping of people for a common purpose or cause. Social clubs and societies often have the term Association included in the title of the club or group. If a group of people share a common interest or purpose and form an organization to carry out such a purpose, then it is called an Association. Think of Association as being connected to individuals wherein it is the people who unite to further or achieve a common goal. The term Association lends a certain formality to the group of people in that it suggests that the group is organized and has designations and responsibilities in pursuance of a common goal or interest. There is no question of separate control or a central authority like that of a Federation.

Difference Between Federation and Association

An association dedicated to reducing the impact of cancer on all affected in Botswana.

What is the difference between Federation and Association?

• A Federation refers to a group of states, organizations or other legal entities.

• An Association, in contrast, refers to a group of people or groups of people uniting for a common purpose.

• In the case of a Federation, there is a central authority or government that exercises overall control over the separate entities or states. The separate states uniting under a Federation also retain control over their internal affairs.

• In an Association, there is no involvement of a central authority or separate states. It comprises mostly individuals who work together to achieve a common purpose or objective.

• A Federation deals mostly with states, provinces, organizations or legal entities. An Association involves the union of people as opposed to states or organizations.


Images Courtesy:

1. Australia Federation Ribbon By Turner & Henderson (from my collection) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Association by Zeusified [CC BY 2.0]