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In the last twenty years, in Italy federalism has turned from an entirely minority vision, relegated among possible and unaccomplished hypotheses to the historiography of the formation of the national state, into the possible term of reference for the reform of the structure of the state adopted by the most disparate political ideologies and traditions. The aim of this essay is to outline the fundamental theoretical cleavages of contemporary federalist theory, and to verify to what extent federalist or neo-federalist concepts may serve to understand the key questions that the country has to address. Although there are good reasons to believe that the implementation of federalism would not have solely positive consequences, arguments for it have a solid base in the consequences of public spending for economic growth and in the transfer of most national state functions to the European Union.