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Functionalism

Functionalism is one of two general approaches the Supreme Court uses to decide constitutional disputes implicating the separation of powers. Functionalism constitutes a pragmatic approach to the separation-of-powers doctrine that carefully considers the costs and benefits that a nontraditional administrative structure would provide. By way of contrast, formalism—the other general approach the Supreme Court uses to frame and decide separation-of-powers questions—seeks to strictly enforce the framers’ scheme of divided and separated powers; under this approach, federal courts generally deny Congress and the president discretion to create new administrative structures that redistribute legislative, executive, and judicial functions among the three branches of the federal government. This entry discusses functionalism as an aspect of the separation-of-powers doctrine, the constitutional foundations of functionalism and the separation of powers, ...

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