Book Project

Against Localism: An American Tradition and Its Discontents*

The aim of this book is both to characterize and to critique a particular, and not at all peculiar, frame of mind, attitude, or impulse in American political thought, culture, and practice. I call this frame of mind localism. Rooted most broadly in the preference for, or in the disposition in favor of, what is near and small as opposed to what is distant and large in the political world, localism in America has social, political, and ideological dimensions. Americans, it is widely believed, are peculiar in their intense desire to be governed close to home. Whether this is attributable to their status as settler-nation continually confronting the frontier, in their experience of being governed from across the Atlantic during the colonial era, or in the combination of communitarian and individualistic impulses, American localism is easily recognizable but poorly understood.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Localism in American Political Thought, Development, and Culture

Chapter 2: The Eighteenth Century: Localism in Anti-Federalist Political Thought

Chapter 3: The Nineteenth Century: Stephen Douglas, Localism, Popular Sovereignty, and Slavery in the Territories

Chapter 4: The Twentieth Century: The Ideology of Local Control in American Education

Conclusion: The Twenty-First Century: Whither Localism?


*Based on my dissertation:

The Localist Tradition in America
Princeton University
September 2015
Committee: Melissa Lane, Stephen Macedo, Paul Frymer