Localism (politics)

Last updated

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.

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. Consequently, localism will encourage stronger democratic and political participatory forums and widening public sphere connectivity. [1]


Localists assert that throughout the world's history, most social and economic institutions are scaled at the local level, as opposed to regional, interregional, or global (basically until the late 19th to the early 20th centuries).[ citation needed ] Through ongoing forms of colonialism, imperialism and industrial expansion local scales become less central.[ citation needed ] Most proponents of localism position themselves as defending aspects of this way of life;[ citation needed ] the phrase "relocalization" is often used in this sense.[ citation needed ]

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, 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" [2]

Beginning in the 1970s, a particularly visible strain of localism in the United States was a movement started by Alice Waters 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 International Socialism , 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 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.[ citation needed ]

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" [4]

Tip O'Neill, a longtime Democratic Speaker of the House in the US 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 populism

Wayne Yeung [6] questions the assumption that localism is a sub-school of European-American populism. Yeung raised an example in which localism is a cultural or civic value rather than a value that supports ethnic understanding in Hong Kong identity politics.

Jane Wills argued that an increasing numbers of populist politicians are endorsing localism as a framework for public policy. [7] She defined populism as a form of politics that involves people speaking in a register that is authentic to the experiences and needs of those people. [7] In other words, most likely Populist Party policies would contradict parties that support the elites. [7] She also used the term "anti-politics" to describe localist politicians because they stand against mainstream politics. [7] She used the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) as an example of a party adopting localism into their policies. Mainstream politicians from the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties were threatened by the rise of UKIP. [7]

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. [8]

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. [9] [10]

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. [11] [12]

Examples of localism are:

See also

Related Research Articles

Congregationalist polity, or congregational polity, often known as congregationalism, is a system of ecclesiastical polity in which every local church congregation is independent, ecclesiastically sovereign, or "autonomous". Its first articulation in writing is the Cambridge Platform of 1648 in New England.

Autarky is the characteristic of self-sufficiency, usually applied to societies, communities, states and their economic systems.

Local purchasing is a preference to buy locally produced goods and services rather than those produced farther away. It is very often abbreviated as a positive goal, "buy local" or "buy locally', that parallels the phrase "think globally, act locally", common in green politics.

Nondenominational Christianity consists of churches which typically distance themselves from the confessionalism or creedalism of other Christian communities by not formally aligning with a specific Christian denomination. Many non-denominational churches have a congregationalist polity, which is self-governing without a higher church authority.

Churches of Christ are autonomous Christian congregations associated with one another through distinct beliefs and practices based on their interpretation of the Bible. Represented in the United States and one of several branches across the world, they believe in using only biblical precedents for their doctrine and practices, citing examples from the early Christian church as described in the New Testament. The churches of Christ identify themselves as being nondenominational.

The group of Christians known as the Christian Churches or Churches of Christ are congregations within the Restoration Movement that have no formal denominational affiliation with other congregations, but still share many characteristics of belief and worship. Churches in this tradition are strongly congregationalist and have no formal denominational ties, and thus there is no proper name that is agreed to apply to the movement as a whole. Most congregations in this tradition include the words "Christian Church" or "Church of Christ" in their congregational name. Due to the lack of formal organization between congregations, there is a lack of official statistical data, but the 2016 Directory of the Ministry documents some 5000 congregations in the USA and Canada; some estimate the number to be over 6,000 since this directory is unofficial.

Glocalization is the "simultaneous occurrence of both universalizing and particularizing tendencies in contemporary social, political, and economic systems." The notion of glocalization "represents a challenge to simplistic conceptions of globalization processes as linear expansions of territorial scales. Glocalization indicates that the growing importance of continental and global levels is occurring together with the increasing salience of local and regional levels."

Regionalism is a political ideology which seeks to increase the political power, influence and/or self-determination of the people of one or more subnational regions. It focuses on the "development of a political or social system based on one or more" regions and/or the national, normative or economic interests of a specific region, group of regions or another subnational entity, gaining strength from or aiming to strengthen the "consciousness of and loyalty to a distinct region with a homogeneous population", similarly to nationalism. More specifically, "regionalism refers to three distinct elements: movements demanding territorial autonomy within unitary states; the organization of the central state on a regional basis for the delivery of its policies including regional development policies; political decentralization and regional autonomy".

New localism is a concept associated with Tony Blair's Labour government in the United Kingdom. It was intended to indicate a cautious devolution of power to the local level in an attempt to better implement national goals.

Parochialism is the state of mind, whereby one focuses on small sections of an issue rather than considering its wider context. More generally, it consists of being narrow in scope. In that respect, it is a synonym of "provincialism". It may, particularly when used pejoratively, be contrasted to universalism. The term insularity may be similarly used.

Taiwanese nationalism

Taiwanese nationalism is a nationalist movement to identify the Taiwanese people as a distinct nation. Due to the complex political status of Taiwan, it is strongly linked with the Taiwan independence movement in seeking an identity separate from the Chinese. This involves the education of history, geography, and culture from a Taiwan-centric perspective, promoting native languages of Taiwan such as Taiwanese Hokkien, Hakka, and indigenous languages, as well as reforms in other aspects.

Localism may refer to:

Self-sustainability and self-sufficiency are overlapping states of being in which a person or organization needs little or no help from, or interaction with, others. Self-sufficiency entails the self being enough, and a self-sustaining entity can maintain self-sufficiency indefinitely. These states represent types of personal or collective autonomy. A self-sufficient economy is one that requires little or no trade with the outside world and is called an autarky.

Fiscal localism comprises institutions of localized monetary exchange. Sometimes considered a backlash against global capitalism or economic globalization, fiscal localism affords voluntary, market structures that help communities trade more efficiently within their communities and regions.

Localism Act 2011 Legislation concerning English local government

The Localism Act 2011 is an Act of Parliament that changes the powers of local government in England. The aim of the act is to facilitate the devolution of decision-making powers from central government control to individuals and communities. The measures affected by the Act include an increase in the number of elected mayors, referendums and the "Local authority’s general power of competence" which states "A local authority has power to do anything that individuals generally may do".

Devolution in the United Kingdom Granting Parliamentary powers to Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of England

In the United Kingdom, devolution is the Parliament of the United Kingdom's statutory granting of a greater level of self-government to the Scottish Parliament, the Senedd, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the London Assembly and to their associated executive bodies the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government, the Northern Ireland Executive and in England, the Greater London Authority and combined authorities.

Localis is an independent think tank that promotes neo-localist ideas. It was founded in 2001 and is currently based in Westminster, United Kingdom. Its research programme is guided by the concept of neo-localism which it describes as giving places and people more control over the effects of globalisation.

Chin Wan

Horace Chin Wan-kan, born 8 November 1961), better known by his pen name Chin Wan, is a Hong Kong scholar advocating localism, best known for his publications On the Hong Kong City-State series. He is the founder and leader of the Hong Kong Resurgence Order and is the ideological leader of the "Hong Kong Autonomy Movement," dubbed as the "godfather of localism" in Hong Kong. Until mid-2016, Chin was an assistant professor at the Department of Chinese of the Lingnan University.

Localism in Hong Kong Political movement in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, localism is a political movement centered on the preservation of the city's autonomy and local culture. The Hong Kong localist movement encompasses a variety of groups with different goals, but all of them oppose the perceived growing encroachment of the Chinese central government on the city's management of its own political, economic, and social affairs. Issues of concern to localist groups include land use and development, cultural and heritage conservation on the left, parallel trading and the increasing number of mainland immigrants and tourists on the right. On the autonomy of Hong Kong, many of them advocate the Hong Kong people's right to self-determination, while milder elements advocate for greater autonomy while remaining part of China, and the most radical call for return to British rule or full independence as a sovereign state. Certain right-wing localist groups also advocate for a more aggressive and militant approach in defending popular interests.

Localist groups (Hong Kong) Hong Kong political groups favoring autonomy

Localist groups, or localist and self-determination groups, are the various groups with localist ideologies in Hong Kong. It emerged from post-80s social movements in the late 2000s which centred on the preservation of the city's autonomy and local lifestyles and opposed the perceived growing encroachment of the Beijing government on the city's management of its own political, economic, and social affairs.


  1. 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. S2CID   153558023.
  2. Milburn, Alan (2004), Localism: The need for a new settlement (speech), Demos.
  3. Tomas, Mark. "Feedback: Transport and climate change—a reply to James Woodcock". International Socialism (109).
  4. De-industrialising society, archived from the original on 2006-05-14.
  5. Politic, River Deep, October 2000.
  6. Yeung, Wayne. “From Populism to Localism.” New Bloom. Updated on April 15, 2016
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Wills, Jane. “Populism, localism and the geography of democracy.” In Geoforum, Volume 62 (June 2015), pp.188-189.
  8. George Monbiot (September 9, 2003), "The myth of localism", The Guardian .
  9. Michaud, Hélène (April 2005), East-West brain drain, Radio Netherlands, archived from the original on 2006-01-17, retrieved 2006-01-30.
  10. Edward J. Feser and Stuart H. Sweeney, Out-migration, population decline, and regional economic distress, Washington, DC: Economic Development Administration, 1998.
  11. Hess, David J. (2009). Localist Movements in a Global Economy: Sustainability, Justice, and Urban Development in the United States. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN   9780262512329. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-07-22.
  12. DeYoung, Raymond, & Princen, Thomas (2012). The Localization Reader: Adapting to the Coming Downshift. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN   9780262516877.
  13. FCC Localism Hearing to be Held in Washington, DC, on October 31st (PDF), USA: FCC.
  14. 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 copy". Archived from the original on June 16, 2006. Retrieved 2011-10-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), and here Archived 2014-02-09 at the Wayback Machine , here Archived 2008-05-09 at the Wayback Machine and here Archived 2007-10-11 at the Wayback Machine
  15. 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
  16. "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
  17. 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."
  18. 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
  19. "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
  20. "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
  21. 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
  22. 1 2 3 Carmen Renee Berry, The Unauthorized Guide to Choosing a Church, Brazos Press, 2003, ISBN   1-58743-036-3
  23. 1 2 3 Ron Rhodes, The Complete Guide to Christian Denominations, Harvest House Publishers, 2005, ISBN   0-7369-1289-4
  24. V. E. Howard, What Is the Church of Christ? 4th Edition (Revised) Central Printers & Publishers, West Monroe, Louisiana, 1971
  25. 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