Book Project: Against Localism

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Localism—the relative preference for the local, the small, or the proximate, in contrast to the national or global, the large, or the distant—has a long tradition in American political life. In the last several years, however, enthusiasm for more local solutions has reached something of a fever pitch—and not only in the United States. According to Bruce Katz and Jeremy Novak in The New Localism (2017), “practical solutions to economic growth, economic inclusion, and environmental sustainability are more within the local domain than the national.” According to Front Porch Republic’s 2018 manifesto, Localism in the Mass Age (introduced by Patrick Deneen), “there are hopeful signs that people are beginning to think seriously about the importance of localism, human scale, limits, and stewardship.”

Localism is a powerfully seductive political ideal. It claims support from sophisticated and attractive arguments drawn from economics, philosophy, and political science. It resonates with some of our most cherished values including freedom, democracy, and community. It just feels like common sense: the things, people, and projects that matter most are local.local-first-indiana-300x300

Against Localism shows that the case for localism is a mirage. Despite the conventional wisdom, the attractions of localism as a general principle are illusory. In itself, the local is neither good nor bad. Things are not better merely because they are small or close. Local solutions are not better because they are local; they are only better if and because they promote the interests and values of human beings better than non-local solutions. I challenge the case for localism by deconstructing and demystifying a series of representative arguments on behalf of the local: arguments from despotism, nature, attachment, democracy, diversity, accountability, knowledge, efficiency, and self-determination. Each argument turns out to be weak, or merely conditional; together they fail to provide a persuasive case for localism.

Chapter Outlinelocal-first-indiana-300x300

Part I: Groundwork
Ch. 1. Introduction
Ch. 2. Concepts and Definitions

Part II: Why Localism? Intrinsic Reasons
Ch. 3. Despotism
Ch. 4. Nature
Ch. 5. Attachment

Part III: Why Localism? Instrumental Reasons
Ch. 6. Democracy
Ch. 7. Diversity
Ch. 8. Accountability
Ch. 9. Knowledge
Ch. 10. Efficiency
Ch. 11. Freedom and Self-Determination

Part IV: Against Localism
Ch. 12. Synthesis
Ch. 13. Conclusion: For Moral Imagination

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