Localism (politics)

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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 promotion of local history, local culture and local identity. Localism can be contrasted with regionalism and centralized government, with its opposite being found in the unitary state.

Localism can also refer to a systematic approach to organizing a national government so that local autonomy is retained rather than following the usual pattern of government and political power becoming centralized over time. This view of Localism is defined in the work Localism, A Philosophy of Government[1] by an author who uses the pseudonym “Achbani”. This work is available in the third edition as an e-book, while an earlier hardcover edition, circulated underground without even an ISBN, is rather rare.

History[edit]

Localists assert that throughout the world's history, most social and economic institutions have 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 proponents 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 drew 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"[2]

Beginning in the 1980s, a particularly 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[edit]

Localism as a philosophy is related to the principle of subsidiarity.

In the early 21st century, localists have frequently found themselves aligned with critics of globalisation. 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."[3]

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.[citation needed]

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"[4]

Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, a longtime Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress, once famously declared that "All politics is local"[5] He eventually wrote a book by that name: All Politics Is Local: And Other Rules of the Game.

Localism and concern for the Third World[edit]

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. George Monbiot claims this idea 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.[6]

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.[7][8]

International relations[edit]

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[edit]

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, and in some cases localist activism has parallels with opposition to corporate-led globalization. Localism can be geographical, but there are also transnational linkages. Localist movements are often organized in support of locally owned, independent businesses and nonprofit organizations. Although the focus of this aspect of localist activism is on "buy local," "support local food," and "bank local" campaigns, some organizations and businesses also combine the goal of increased local ownership with environmental sustainability and social fairness goals.[9][10]

Examples of localism are:

  • Support for local food networks, such as farmers' markets, community-supported agriculture, community gardens, farm-to-table programs, food cooperatives, and restaurants that serve local food. The slow food movement, using diverse, seasonal, natural food in reaction to multinational merchandising of food which is uniform, produced using industrial methods, and called fast food.
  • Support for locally owned, independent businesses, including community banks and credit unions, such as the following organizations: American Independent Business Alliance, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and Move Your Money. "The Benefits of Doing Business Locally" an essay by Jeff Milchen, American Independent Business Alliance co-founder, covers many arguments for local business ownership and patronage.
  • The Interactive Local Media movement as evidenced by:
  • 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 that "promoting localism is a key goal of the Commission’s media ownership rules."[11]
  • Localism in government structures, which can include:
    • 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.
    • Federalism and devolution.
  • 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.
  • Religion (Protestant):
    • 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.
  • Religion (Churches of Christ):
    • The congregationalist idea of local autonomy is a cornerstone of restoration movement fellowships that identify as churches of Christ or Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. Founders of the movement declared their independence from various denominations, seeking a fresh start to restore the New Testament church, and abandoning creeds. The names "Church of Christ," "Christian Church" and "Disciples of Christ" were adopted by the movement because they believed these terms to be biblical and not man made.
    • A converging of Christians across denominational lines in search of a return to a hypothesized original, "pre-denominational" Christianity.[12][13]:108 Participants in this movement sought to base doctrine and practice on the Bible alone, rather than recognizing the traditional councils and denominational hierarchies that had come to define Christianity since the 1st century AD.[12][13]:82,104,105 Members of the Churches of Christ believe that Jesus founded only one church, that the current divisions between Christians are not God's will, and that the only basis for restoring Christian unity is the Bible.[12] They typically prefer to be known simply as "Christians", without any further religious or denominational identification.[14][15][16]:213 They see themselves as recreating the New Testament church established by Christ.[17][18][19]:106
  • Churches of Christ generally share these theological beliefs:[12]
    • Refusal to hold to any formalized creeds or statements of faith, preferring instead a reliance on the Bible alone for doctrine and practice;[19]:103[20]:238,240[21]:123
    • Autonomous, congregational church organization without denominational oversight;[20]:238[21]:124
    • Local governance[20]:238 by a plurality of male elders;[21]:124[22]:47–54
    • One of the largest divisions within churches of Christ was due to controversy of foreign missionary work. Opponents of what they dubbed "Institutionalism" argued against it both as a drain on local congregations and as sinful if done in cooperation with other congregations. This belief extended to cooperative support of orphanages, homes, large-scale radio and TV programs and ministries.[23]
    • The Restoration Movement is so averse to association with other congregations that they renounce the term "protestant"; distancing their churches from any association to any denomination; even one they would have to "protest" and evolve from.
  • Localism as it applies to saving our globe economically and environmentally: Localism is essential in describing the magnitude of our climate crisis and economic concerns. Through several selfish actions, globally, we have created an entirely new planet; a planet that is struggling to maintain it’s sustainability. The book, “Earth” by Bill McKibben, is centralized around this topic. McKibben notes that we are at a point in which we need to drastically alter our attitude in order to provide the generations to come with a more bearable environment. This meaning, that our sights need to be directed towards merely just enduring, rather than growing. To do so, he suggests that we must return to, and rely on the notion of localism. As a result, communities will be able to rediscover what we may have lost sight of in lieu of the recent economic growth, that being the benefits of relying on our neighbors. An example of this is local farming; although it has shown to be more labor concentrated, in the long run it could prove to be more practical in an economic sense. McKibben believes that by supporting local farming, communities can essentially cut out the middlemen that are needed to transport, store, and package the items that we see in the supermarket and therefore save not only economically, but also conserve the limited energy resources that we do have. An article from Business and The Environment Journal in September 2011 stated that, “buying local makes consumers feel good,” and “shorter trips from the field to the market mean fewer carbon emissions.” Although this may depend on the product of interest, a decrease of carbon emission will lead to conserved energy which was McKibben’s initial topic of concern in getting our world back to a more sustainable place. Fred Curtis from the Department of Economics at Drew University labels this broad notion as “eco-localism”. He believes that “the road to environmental sustainability lies in the creation of local, self-reliant, community economies.” Socially, physically, and financially, communities need to adapt and become more locally oriented in order for this process to play out favorably in the long run. One of the key points that Curtis acknowledges is that by producing goods and services based on local needs, communities can essentially produce higher quality products, in turn allowing the needs of consumers to be met, inevitably leading to a restructure of the local economy.

Sources: McKibben, Bill. Eaarth. New York: Time /Henry Holt, 2010. Print. Business & the Environment; Sep2011, Vol. 22 Issue 9, p1-4, 4p Curtis, Fred. "Eco-localism and Sustainability." Science Direct. N.p., Aug. 2003. Web. Oct. 6. <http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.ithaca.edu:2048/science/article/pii/S0921800903001022>.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Localism-A-Philosophy-Government-ebook/dp/B00B0GACAQ/ref=pd_rhf_pe_p_t_2_GB3H
  2. ^ Localism: The need for a new settlement, Alan Milburn MP, Speech given to the "Demos" group in 2004.
  3. ^ Tomas, Mark, "Feedback: Transport and climate change—a reply to James Woodcock", International Socialism Journal (109) .
  4. ^ De-industrialising society .
  5. ^ Politic, River Deep, October 2000 .
  6. ^ "The myth of localism", The Guardian, September 9, 2003 .
  7. ^ Michaud, Hélène (April 2005), East-West brain drain, Radio Netherlands .
  8. ^ Edward J. Feser and Stuart H. Sweeney, Out-migration, population decline, and regional economic distress, Washington, DC: Economic Development Administration, 1998.
  9. ^ Hess, David J. (2009). Localist Movements in a Global Economy: Sustainability, Justice, and Urban Development in the United States. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262512329. 
  10. ^ DeYoung, Raymond, & Princen, Thomas (2012). The Localization Reader: Adapting to the Coming Downshift. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262516877. 
  11. ^ FCC Localism Hearing to be Held in Washington, DC, on October 31st (PDF), USA: FCC .
  12. ^ a b c d Batsell Barrett Baxter, Who are the churches of Christ and what do they believe in? Available on-line in an Archived June 16, 2006 at the Wayback Machine, and here, here and here
  13. ^ a b C. Leonard Allen and Richard T. Hughes, "Discovering Our Roots: The Ancestry of the Churches of Christ," Abilene Christian University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-89112-006-8
  14. ^ "The church of Jesus Christ is non-denominational. It is neither Catholic, Jewish nor Protestant. It was not founded in 'protest' of any institution, and it is not the product of the 'Restoration' or 'Reformation.' It is the product of the seed of the kingdom (Luke 8:11ff) grown in the hearts of men." V. E. Howard, What Is the Church of Christ? 4th Edition (Revised), 1971, page 29
  15. ^ Batsell Barrett Baxter and Carroll Ellis, Neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jew, tract, Church of Christ (1960) ASIN: B00073CQPM. According to Richard Thomas Hughes in Reviving the Ancient Faith: The Story of Churches of Christ in America, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1996 (ISBN 0-8028-4086-8, ISBN 978-0-8028-4086-8), this is "arguably the most widely distributed tract ever published by the Churches of Christ or anyone associated with that tradition."
  16. ^ Samuel S. Hill, Charles H. Lippy, Charles Reagan Wilson, Encyclopedia of Religion in the South,Mercer University Press, 2005, (ISBN 0-86554-758-0, ISBN 978-0-86554-758-2) 854 pages
  17. ^ "On the cornerstone of the Southside Church of Christ in Springfield, Missouri, is this inscription: 'Church of Christ, Founded in Jerusalem, A.D. 33. This building erected in 1953.' This is not an unusual claim; for similar wording can be found on buildings of churches of Christ in many parts of the United States. The Christians who use such cornerstones reason that the church of Jesus Christ began on Pentecost, A.D. 33. Therefore, to be true to the New Testament, the twentieth-century church must trace its origins to the first century." Page 1, Robert W. Hooper, A Distinct People: A History of the Churches of Christ in the 20th Century, Simon and Schuster, 1993, ISBN 1-878990-26-8, ISBN 978-1-878990-26-6, 391 pages
  18. ^ "Traditional Churches of Christ have pursued the restorationist vision with extraordinary zeal. Indeed, the cornerstones of many Church of Christ buildings read 'Founded, A.D. 33.' " page 212, Samuel S. Hill, Charles H. Lippy, Charles Reagan Wilson, Encyclopedia of Religion in the South,Mercer University Press, 2005
  19. ^ a b Stuart M. Matlins, Arthur J. Magida, J. Magida, How to Be a Perfect Stranger: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People's Religious Ceremonies, Wood Lake Publishing Inc., 1999, ISBN 1-896836-28-3, ISBN 978-1-896836-28-7, 426 pages, Chapter 6 - Churches of Christ
  20. ^ a b c Carmen Renee Berry, The Unauthorized Guide to Choosing a Church, Brazos Press, 2003, ISBN 1-58743-036-3
  21. ^ a b c Ron Rhodes, The Complete Guide to Christian Denominations, Harvest House Publishers, 2005, ISBN 0-7369-1289-4
  22. ^ V. E. Howard, What Is the Church of Christ? 4th Edition (Revised) Central Printers & Publishers, West Monroe, Louisiana, 1971
  23. ^ Randy Harshbarger, "A history of the institutional controversy among Texas Churches of Christ: 1945 to the present," M.A. thesis, Stephen F. Austin State University, 2007 , 149 pages; AAT 1452110

External links[edit]