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Localism? I Don't Buy It

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Humanity's failure so far to deal with multiple crises - planet-wide ecological degradation, domination by a transnational economic elite, the deepening misery that afflicts billions in both rich and poor nations - has prompted increasing interest in local economies as less intimidating arenas where much-needed change might be more readily achieved. 

It's true that in the earliest days of capitalism, the human exploitation and environmental destruction that came along with the pursuit of profit were largely local problems. Then, inevitably, those local economies grew and coalesced into an even more destructive global economy. But retreating into local issues means latching onto one of capitalism's symptoms - the eclipsing of local economies and governments by more powerful transnational forces - and treating it as if it's the disease itself. In his 2012 book, No Local: Why Small-Scale Alternatives Won't Change the World, Greg Sharzer writes, "The problem with localism is not its anti-corporate politics, but that these politics don't go far enough. It sees the effects of unbridled competition but not the cause." 

Good intentions meet market realities

Efforts to localize have tackled issues such as promotion of hometown businesses, alternative currencies or barter systems, community-based energy generation, greener transportation, and most prominently, local food systems. The more highly visible, and shallower, forms of localism concentrate on consumption without acknowledging that it's not in the checkout queue but in the workplace that the great chasm opens up between families who live paycheck to paycheck and the more affluent, more powerful business owners who today control the fate of communities.    


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