Limits of Localism: Four dimensions of power
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A trend in the planning discourse tends to portray the local in a positive light. This paper critically examines localism and regionalism, from a theoretical point of view, to find out whether this positive outlook may be maintained. First the ontology of the local is examined, with its substantive, relational and experiential aspects. As a complex, multi-dimensional process, localism is then analysed at the intersection of four dimensions of power: territorial, representational, institutional, and functional. Boundaries are drawn, representations created, relations within and beyond the locality arranged, and functions allocated. The analysis shows a tendency to essentialise the local as a finished, circumscribed, commodified product, at odds with its multiplicity, diversity, inequality, porous boundaries and relational reality. There is also a gap between the definitions and functions allocated to the local in a hierarchical division of labour, relations with intra- and extra-local political and economic forces, and the mythological narratives of autonomy.
Localism, power, multiplicity, decentralisation, reductionism