Localism & Democracy
It has been said “all politics is local.” Nevertheless, most public attention is focused on national politics. But that is changing now as local communities, feeling themselves powerless at the national level, are trying to gain some control over their lives closer to home. People are looking to create land trusts, public banks, community development authorities, cooperatives, farm to market agriculture and a host of resilient institutions that are more democratic.
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. It's about building communities that are more healthy and sustainable - backed by local economies that are stronger and more resilient.
Localism will be dissected by three local thinkers: Cliff DuRand, Peter Weisberg and Gregory Diamant.
While the current global trade model pushes for corporate success and efficiency on a greater scale than ever before, it also extended failure and inefficiency to the same scale — and nowhere has this been more obvious than in the political and social sphere.
Today, every nation in the world is being induced to enlist in a single, highly centralized economy, one which depends on vast homogenized markets and ever increasing trade.
Resistance to further globalization is mounting. Not all of this resistance has progressive goals. The rise of nationalism and xenophobia, fueled as a consequence of corporate driven neoliberal trade, not just in the U.S. but around the globe, is extremely disconcerting. But there is a growing progressive side to localization.
It’s understandable to feel isolated and long for a sense of place in our “one size fits all” world. We want to make a difference, and it’s so much easier to do this not in mass organizations or seemingly distant causes, but in connections and relationships close to home. Localism is one process that could restore confidence in a failing democracy.
America is built on our stories – and if the myths we live by and national plot has taken a dark turn, it’s imperative that we write new narratives of hope and renewal in our local communities. Localism requires that we replace pessimism, which tends to be counterproductive, with a “conditional optimism” that opens the door for imagination and action.
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