Localism (politics)

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] This work is available in the third edition as an ebook, while an earlier hardcover edition, circulated underground without an ISBN, is rather rare.

On a conceptual level, there are important affinities between localism and deliberative democracy. This concerns mainly the democratic goal of engaging citizens in decisions that affect them.[2]


Localists assert that throughout the world's history, most social and economic institutions have been scaled at the local level, as opposed to regional, interregional, or global (basically until the late 19th to the 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. They 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"[3]

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.

Political philosophy

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."[4]

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 the 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: "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"[5]

Tip O'Neill, a longtime Speaker of the House in the US Congress, once famously declared that "All politics is local"[6] He eventually wrote a book by that name: All Politics Is Local: And Other Rules of the Game.

Localism and 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 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, even if Third World countries often get a raw deal in trade relations, refusing to trade at all would be a significant blow, as the countries need the revenue generated by trade.[7]

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 a fifth of them were highly educated specialists in chemistry, biology, medicine and physics.[8][9]

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 whatever 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, 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.[10][11]

Examples of localism are:


See also


  1. Moore, Mark 'Achbani', Localism, A Philosophy of Government (ebook), Amazon.
  2. Ercan, S.A.; Hendriks, C.H. (2013). "The democratic challenges and potential of localism: Insights from deliberative democracy". Policy Studies. 31 (4): 422–440. doi:10.1080/01442872.2013.822701.
  3. Milburn, Alan (2004), Localism: The need for a new settlement (speech), Demos.
  4. Tomas, Mark, "Feedback: Transport and climate change—a reply to James Woodcock", International Socialism Journal (109).
  5. De-industrialising society.
  6. Politic, River Deep, October 2000.
  7. George Monbiot (September 9, 2003), "The myth of localism", The Guardian.
  8. Michaud, Hélène (April 2005), East-West brain drain, Radio Netherlands.
  9. Edward J. Feser and Stuart H. Sweeney, Out-migration, population decline, and regional economic distress, Washington, DC: Economic Development Administration, 1998.
  10. 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.
  11. DeYoung, Raymond, & Princen, Thomas (2012). The Localization Reader: Adapting to the Coming Downshift. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262516877.
  12. FCC Localism Hearing to be Held in Washington, DC, on October 31st (PDF), USA: FCC.
  13. 1 2 3 4 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
  14. 1 2 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
  15. "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
  16. 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."
  17. 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
  18. "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
  19. "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
  20. 1 2 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
  21. 1 2 3 Carmen Renee Berry, The Unauthorized Guide to Choosing a Church, Brazos Press, 2003, ISBN 1-58743-036-3
  22. 1 2 3 Ron Rhodes, The Complete Guide to Christian Denominations, Harvest House Publishers, 2005, ISBN 0-7369-1289-4
  23. V. E. Howard, What Is the Church of Christ? 4th Edition (Revised) Central Printers & Publishers, West Monroe, Louisiana, 1971
  24. 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
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