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Diagrams of systems in various degrees of centralisation. From left to right: centralisation, decentralisation, distribution, and distributed decentralisation.
Diagrams of systems in various degrees of centralisation. From left to right: centralisation, decentralisation, distribution, and distributed decentralisation.

Centralisation or centralization (see spelling differences) is the process by which the activities of an organisation, particularly those regarding planning and decision-making, framing strategy and policies become concentrated within a particular geographical location group. This moves the important decision-making and planning powers within the center of the organisation.

The term has a variety of meanings in several fields. In political science, centralisation refers to the concentration of a government's power—both geographically and politically—into a centralised government.

An antonym of centralisation is decentralisation.[1]

Centralisation in politics

History of the centralisation of authority

Centralisation of authority is the systematic and consistent concentration of authority at a central point or in a person within the organization. This idea was first introduced in the Qin Dynasty of China. The Qin government was highly bureaucratic and was administered by a hierarchy of officials, all serving the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang. The Qin Dynasty practised all the things that Han Feizi taught, allowing Qin Shi Huang to own and control all his territories, including those conquered from other countries. Zheng and his advisers ended feudalism in China by setting up new laws and regulations under a centralised and bureaucratic government with a rigid centralisation of authority.[2]

Features of centralisation of authority in ancient Chinese government

Idea of centralisation of authority

A diagram of a centralised health tracing system (in French)[relevant?]
A diagram of a centralised health tracing system (in French)[relevant?]

The acts for the implementation are needed after delegation. Therefore, the authority for taking the decisions can be spread with the help of the delegation of the authority.

The centralisation of authority can be done immediately, if complete concentration is given at the decision-making stage for any position. The centralisation can be done with a position or at a level in an organisation. Ideally, the decision-making power is held by a few individuals.

Advantages and disadvantages of the centralisation of authority

Centralisation of authority has several advantages and disadvantages. The benefits include:

  1. Responsibilities and duties are well defined within the central governing body.
  2. Decision-making is very direct and clear.[4]
  3. The central power maintains a large "encompassing interest" in the welfare of the state it rules since it stands to benefit from any increase in the state's wealth and/or power.[5] In this sense, the incentives of state and ruler are aligned.

Disadvantages, on the other hand are as follows:

  1. Decisions may be misunderstood while being passed on and lower position departments do not have the decision-making power, therefore it requires an efficient and well-organised top department.
  2. Attention and support for each department or city may not be balanced.
  3. Delay of work information may result in inefficiency of the government.
  4. Discrepancies in the economy and information resources between the centre and other places are significant.
  5. Excludes actors at the local and provincial levels from the prevailing system of governance, reducing the capacity of the central government to hold the authority accountable (with risks of corruption), resolve disputes or design effective policies requiring local knowledge and expertise.[6][7]

Centralisation in economy

Diagram comparing centralised versus decentralised designs of water sectors
Diagram comparing centralised versus decentralised designs of water sectors
A centralised air conditioning unit[relevant?]
A centralised air conditioning unit[relevant?]

Relationship between centralisation (i.e. concentration of production) and capitalism

Main articles: Capitalism § Concentration and centralisation, and Capital accumulation § Concentration and centralization

As written in V.I. Lenin’s book, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, "The remarkably rapid concentration of production in ever-larger enterprises are one of the most characteristic features of capitalism."[8] He researched the development of production and decided to develop the concept of production as a centralised framework, from individual and scattered small workshops into large factories, leading the capitalism to the world. This is guided by the idea that once concentration of production develops into a particular level, it will become a monopoly, like party organisations of Cartel, Syndicate, and Trust.[8]

Centralisation in business studies

An animation representing centralised information processing[relevant?]
An animation representing centralised information processing[relevant?]

Most businesses deal with issues relating to the specifics of centralisation or decentralisation of decision-making. The key question is either whether the authority should manage all the things at the centre of a business (centralised), or whether it should be delegated far away from the centre (decentralised).

The choice between centralised or decentralised varies. Many large businesses necessarily involve some extent of decentralisation and some extent of centralisation when it begins to operate from several places or any new units and markets added.[11]

According to a 2021 study, "firms that delegated more power from the central headquarters to local plant managers prior to the Great Recession outperformed their centralised counterparts in sectors that were hardest hit by the subsequent crisis."[12]

Features of centralisation in management

  1. Top level managers concentrate and reserve the decision-making power.
  2. Execution decided by the top level management with the help from the other levels of management.
  3. Lower levels management do their jobs under direct control of the top managers.[13]

See also


  1. ^ "Thesaurus results for CENTRALIZATION". Retrieved 2022-02-07.
  2. ^ Bachman, D., Bickers, R., Carter, J., de Weert, H., Elders, C., Entenmann, R. and Felton, M. (2007). World and Its Peoples: Eastern and Southern Asia. New York: Marshall Cavendish, p.36.
  3. ^ Jin, G. and Liu, Q. (1992). The Cycle of Growth and Decline - On the Ultrastable Structure of Chinese Society: Chapter 7. 2nd ed. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.
  4. ^ Singh, K. (2015). What is Centralization and De-Centralization of the Authority? | Total MBA Guide. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Nov. 2015].
  5. ^ Olson, Mancur (1993-01-01). "Dictatorship, Democracy, and Development". The American Political Science Review. 87 (3): 567–576. doi:10.2307/2938736. JSTOR 2938736. S2CID 145312307.
  6. ^ Sawyer, Amos (2004-09-01). "Violent conflicts and governance challenges in West Africa: the case of the Mano River basin area". The Journal of Modern African Studies. 42 (3): 437–463. doi:10.1017/S0022278X04000266. ISSN 1469-7777. S2CID 154954003.
  7. ^ Shleifer, Andrei (2002). "The grabbing hand: Government pathologies and their cures". ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ a b Lenin, V. (1939). Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism. New York: International Publishers, pp.12-54.
  9. ^ O’Sullivan, A. and Sheffrin, S. (2003). Economics. Needham, Mass.: Prentice Hall, p.171.
  10. ^ Theodore, D. (1888). "The Legality of "Trusts". Political Science Quarterly, 3(592).
  11. ^ Riley, J. (2014). Centralised versus decentralised structures | Business | tutor2u. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Nov. 2015].
  12. ^ Aghion, Philippe; Bloom, Nicholas; Lucking, Brian; Sadun, Raffaella; Van Reenen, John (2021). "Turbulence, Firm Decentralization, and Growth in Bad Times". American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. 13 (1): 133–169. doi:10.1257/app.20180752. ISSN 1945-7782. S2CID 234358121.
  13. ^ BMS Team, (2013). Important Features of centralization | [online] : Bachelor of Management Studies. Available at: [Accessed 5 Nov. 2015].