Tuesday, 23 January 2018

In defence of localism

Later today, we'll be seeing the launch of a report on 'localism':
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the failures of 'localism'

Although critical of where we are now, it staunchly supports the notion of 'localism'
Kerslake: Localism Act not backed by resources
Lord Kerslake: Let's reignite the possibilities of localism

In November last year, a piece in The Conversation looked at the options:

Hate globalisation? Try localism, not nationalism

November 9, 2017

Kevin Albertson
Professor of Economics, Manchester Metropolitan University

It hardly needs saying, but there are changes afoot in the political economy of the world. Where there is globalisation, there are globalisation protestors. This is nothing new, but it is becoming mainstream.

The antithesis of globalisation, nationalism, and the pursuit of your own country’s interests over those of everyone else, has bubbled back up in Europe. And it’s not just Europe, of course. In the US, president Donald Trump is (among other initiatives) rethinking the American commitment to free trade.

In the rest of the world, the experience of globalisation shows it creates some winners and some losers. This varies geographically and in different economic fields, and is shown in different aspects of our lives...

Think Locally

Rather than nationalism, therefore, we might turn to localism. In the UK context, this might be devolution with real (financial) localised power, and that power realised through local government and local business.

An economy of big businesses (operated for the benefit of global owners) is less than ideal for the individual and society. In contrast, a society of many small local businesses is more resilient, more empowering and more in keeping with the spirit of capitalism and of the market

... there are many ways to promote local ownership and local empowerment. That could include local currencies, boosts to council housing, local authority ownership of utilities or support for locally-owned high street shops. However, it is not a policy mix I suggest, rather it is an emphasis.

Ultimately, the only viable alternative to the choice currently on offer, the choice of Big State or Big Business, is Small State and Small Business, or more appropriately Local Government and Local Business. To pursue localism will require a systemic shift in how the national government goes about shaping society, but I suggest it is possible to promote social justice in a capitalist context in no other way.

Hate globalisation? Try localism, not nationalism - The Conversation

Meanwhile, another Professor has written a defence of localism - where he talks about The Simple Way:


By Ted Trainer, originally published by Resilience

September 1, 2016

My aim is to show that there is no other way to do it. But the book does raise serious problems localism must deal with if it is to succeed.

The book is No LocaL: Why Small Scale Alternatives Can’t Change the World, (Winchester, UK, Zero Books, 2012) by Greg Sharzer. It offers a fairly standard Marxist view on the need for radical change, arguing that the big problems cannot be solved until capitalism is scrapped, and that this can only be achieved by class struggle focused on taking state power. Greg sees localism as failing to grasp this and deluding itself that its achievement of minor and limited reforms will eventually get us to a sustainable and just society...

The inescapable implications for transition strategy

... The main element in TSW/The Simple Way strategy is that there is no better place in which to work at this task of building the required world view than within the local alternative movements...

Thus TSW transition theory identifies two stages. The first, evident in localism today, is indeed about simply developing small alternatives that could be seen as mere reforms by people not interested in thinking about how these activities relate to capitalism. This revolution could begin in no other way. Localism represents significant numbers of people moving towards (some/many of) the kinds of ways that we will practice in post-revolutionary society. We should delight in that; I can look back on decades in which it wasn’t happening. The traditional left isn’t helping with this, isn’t interested, doesn’t see its significance, and indeed attacks it.

It is helpful to see the main goal of this Stage 1 of the revolution as ordinary citizens of the town or suburb building an Economy B underneath the mainstream Economy A, whereby we collectively identify urgent needs and do what we can to deal with them. “Do we have bored kid around here, lonely old people, homeless people…well, let us get together to do something about these problems.” Stage 1 is primarily about developing a sense of collective control and solidarity, about helping communities to see that they must seek to take control of their fate, especially in view of the limits and scarcities ahead.

But there are major limits to what can be achieved at the local level. Even the most conscientious eco-villages have a large footprint, and a considerable and unavoidable dependence on imports from the wider national and international economies. They need chicken wire and pumps ands gum boots which cannot be produced within the town or suburb and presently come from an unacceptable wider economy. How can localism do anything about this? Here’s the answer we have to hope and work for.

Stage two of the revolution

As the global economy increasingly fails to provide for people, more and more will come across to join and build local alternatives. As Economy B develops and as town self-government takes on more functions, there will be increasing realization that the fate of the town depends on being able to get crucial imports from the wider economy. Thus there will be increasing concern to restructure the national economy towards providing the basic and mostly simple goods and resource inputs towns and suburbs need.

Meanwhile grappling with the need to run the town’s economy effectively will be developingin its citizens skills in and commitment to participatory government. Localism will take functions away from governments at the national, state and council levels, and develop the readiness to insist that the remaining central systems move towards participatory and citizen-led processes. It will be obvious that the centre cannot run the towns and suburbs; these can only be run by citizens with local knowledge and commitment, dependent for their welfare on making the right decisions for their situation. Thus the role demanded of more central agencies will shift to providing what the towns and regions need and can’t produce for themselves. Increasingly large numbers, especially members of the now desperately troubled capitalist class, will need to be assisted out of unnecessary and failing industries, and into local alternatives. If we work hard at it and are lucky, these conditions and forces will see us eventually radically restructure government and economy, gearing them to social need and putting them under participatory control.

An unlikely scenario? I agree, but something like this is your best option and we had better work hard to bring it off.

Thus Simpler Way transition strategy focuses here and now on working within the emerging Transition Towns, De-Growth, Permaculture, Eco-village etc. movements … not with the objective of increasing the number of community gardens and clothing swaps that exist, but in order to be in the best position to connect red and green, to be able to help the communitarians to build and run an Economy B, to take control of their fate, and to see that their ultimate goals require capitalism to be scrapped.

The radical left needs to take on board themes that are central in TSW, most obviously the centrality of scarcity, limits and simplicity in the analysis of our situation, the fact that the solution, the goal of this revolution, has to be localism, and the fact that localism has to be the essential means.

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