Globally, many countries are implementing decentralization programs as a means of promoting both democratic and developmental objectives. Unfortunately, however, scholarship has yet to offer a comprehensive framework within which to assess and reform central-local relations. This article seeks to overcome the "division of labor" that has long separated analyses of administrative and political structures, and to provide stronger conceptual vocabulary for describing and analyzing the complexities of centralization and decentralization in both administration and politics. After developing two distinct continua of administrative and political centralization/ decentralization, the paper then combines them in a single matrix able to highlight the wide range of strategies and outcomes that emerge from the complex interplay of the two spheres. Depending on where a country lies within the matrix, it is argued, decentralization strategies may do more harm than good. Devolution strategies are especially problematic in settings with strong local leaders, and should never be attempted without careful analysis of the preexisting character of central-local ties.