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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Localism describes a range of political philosophies which prioritize the local.

Generally, localism supports local production and consumption of goods, local control of government, and local culture and identity. Localist politics have been approached from many directions by different groups. Nevertheless, localism can generally be described as related to Regionalism, and in opposition to Centralism.

Contents

History

Localists assert that throughout the world's history, the scale of most social and economic institutions has been scaled at the local level, as opposed to regional, inter-regional, or global (basically until the late 19th-early 20th centuries). Only with imperialism and the industrial revolution did local scales become denigrated. Most strands of localism position themselves as defending aspects of this earlier way of life; the phrase "relocalization" is often used in this sense.

In the 20th Century, localism has drawn heavily on the writings of Leopold Kohr, E.F. Schumacher, Wendell Berry, and Kirkpatrick Sale, among others. More generally, localism draws on a wide range of movements and concerns and it proposes that by re-localizing democratic and economic relationships to the local level, social, economic and environmental problems will be more definable and solutions more easily created. These include anarchism, bioregionalism, environmentalism, the Greens, and more specific concerns about food, monetary policy, and education. Political parties of all persuasions have also occasionally favored the devolution of power to local authorities. In this vein Alan Milburn, a Labour Party MP, has spoken of "making services more locally accountable, devolving more power to local communities and, in the process, forging a modern relationship between the state, citizens and services" [1]

Beginning in the 1980s, a particular visible strain of localism in the United States was a movement to buy locally produced products. This movement originated with organic farming and likely gained impetus because of growing dissatisfaction with organic certification and the failing economic model of industrial agriculture for small farmers. While the advocates of local consumption draw on protectionist arguments, they also appealed primarily to an environmental argument: that pollution caused by transporting goods was a major externality in a global economy, and one that "localvores" could greatly diminish. Also, environmental issues can be addressed when decision making power is held by those affected by the issues instead of power sources that do not understand the needs of local communities.

Localism as a Political Philosophy

In the early 21st century, localists have frequently found themselves aligned with critics of globalisation, and especially with the Left. Variants of localism are prevalent within the Green movement. According to an article in the International Socialism Journal, localism of this sort seeks to "answer to the problems created by globalisation" with "calls to minimise international trade and to seek to establish economies based on ‘local’ self-sufficiency only."[2]

Some Localists believe that society should be organised politically along community lines, with each community being free to conduct its own business in whatever fashion its people see fit. The size of these communities is defined such that their members are both familiar and dependent on each other - a size something along the lines of a small town or village.

In reference to Localism Edward Goldsmith, former editor of The Ecologist magazine, claims that "The problems facing the world today can only be solved by restoring the functioning of those natural systems which once satisfied our needs, i.e. by fully exploiting those incomparable resources which are individual people, families, communities and ecosystems, which together make up the biosphere or real world"[3]

Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, a longtime Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress, once famously declared that "All politics is local" [1]. He eventually wrote a book by that name entitled All Politics Is Local: And Other Rules of the Game [2].

Localism and concern for the third world

Many localists are concerned with the problems of the development of the third world. Many advocate that third world countries should aim to rely on their own goods and services in order to escape from what they see are the unfair trade relations with the developed world. This idea has been criticized by George Monbiot who claims that it does not recognise the fact that, though Third world countries often get a raw deal in trade relations, not trading at all would be a significant blow because the countries need the revenue generated by trade.[4]

Some localists are also against immigration from poor countries to rich ones. One of the problems they claim results from such immigration is the drain on the intellectual resources of poor countries, so called brain drain. For example, in the past decade Bulgaria is estimated to have lost more than 50,000 qualified scientists and skilled workers through emigration every year. About one fifth of them were highly educated specialists in chemistry, biology, medicine and physics. [5] [6]

International relations

Some Localists are against political intervention and peace keeping measures. They believe that Communities should find solutions to their own problems and in their own time, in what ever fashion they decide. They believe that all societies are capable of achieving long term peace once given the opportunity to do so.

Localist activism

Localism usually describes social measures or trends which emphasise or value local and small-scale phenomena. This is in contrast to large, all-encompassing frameworks for action or belief. Localism can therefore be contrasted with globalisation. Localism can be geographical, but often it is not.

Examples of localism are:

  • Localism in media to support a diverse news media in the face of increasing corporate control. The FCC is using this term when seeking input on its rules and states "promoting localism is a key goal of the Commission’s media ownership rules." [7]
  • Tertiary government where small community councils make relevant decisions, with some degree of independence from local or national government.
  • Workers councils, where the employees of a particular workplace discuss and negotiate with their employer, rather have this done by a national union which may be remote from local issues .
  • Postmodernism can be seen as a sort of cultural localism, where accepted cultural values may be ignored in favour of people creating their own criteria of value.
  • Federalism and devolution are examples of politically localistic movements.
  • Religion (Protestantism):
    • Exclusive localism holds that there can't be more than one legitimate institutionally visible church at one given location, the variation of which varies but is usually held to be either a city or a neighbourhood.
    • Localism is more generally the congregationalist idea that each local church should be autonomous, only extended to reject any formal association of churches. It is specially relevant among Baptists, where localists reject the forming of Conventions.

References

  1. ^ Localism: The need for a new settlement, Alan Milburn MP, Speech given to the "Demos" group in 2004.
  2. ^ http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=176&issue=109 Feedback: Transport and climate change—a reply to James Woodcock, Mark Tomas, International Socialism Journal, Issue: 109
  3. ^ http://www.edwardgoldsmith.com/page78.html De-industrialising society, Edward Goldsmith.
  4. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1038164,00.html The myth of localism, George Monbiot, The Guardian, September 9, 2003.
  5. ^ http://www2.rnw.nl/rnw/en/specialseries/euexpansiondrive/050401euexp?view=Standard East-West brain drain, Hélène Michaud, Radio Netherlands, April 2005.
  6. ^ Edward J. Feser and Stuart H. Sweeney, Out-migration, population decline, and regional economic distress, Washington, DC: Economic Development Administration, 1998.
  7. ^ http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-277560A1.pdf "FCC Localism Hearing to be Held in Washington, DC, on October 31st"

See also

External links

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