Bringing it all Back Home

by Bill Kauffman on July 10, 2012 · 3 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

Reason‘s Jesse Walker on Benjamin Looker’s account of Karl Hess, Milton Kotler, and the power-to-the-neighborhoods movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s:

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Benjamin Nagle July 10, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Walker’s article reminds me of Norman Mailer’s ill-fated mayoral campaign. Outside of largely historical contingencies associated with race, I don’t see why the left should be opposed to movements toward local control. Local governance is more genuinely democratic than our “representative” corporate state. And what excites the left if not democratic revolution?

Perhaps the bankruptcy of such cities as Detroit, and attempts by central authorities such as Lansing to manage these urban centers, will cause the left to see that central control actually dis empowers minorities. What could be a better way to incite leftward movements toward localism than Governor Snyder lecturing the citizens of Detroit about their recklessness and need to hand control of their finances over to more responsible leaders in Lansing?

Are there any magazines or websites that picked up The New Left torch, or has the non-interventionist/local control sensibility fallen out of fashion among the young revolutionaries?

avatar love the girls July 10, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Mr. Nagle writes : “what excites the left if not democratic revolution?”

Centralized authority, because it gets the left wing establishment to where they really want to be.

It may not be what the power to the neighborhood movement had in mind, but there do exist neighborhood quasi government entities such as neighborhood planning associations recognized by city council, gated communities and similar with limited power to enforce conformity.

avatar Benjamin Nagle July 11, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Neighborly solidarity can hardly be said to find full expression in the upper class writing landscape, noise, and architectural regulations. You have to admit though, to the credit of the suburban neighborhood boards, in your face participatory governance shatters all the illusions citizens might have about distant governments solving every problem. If your neighbors, who are accountable to you in a face to face kind of way, are willing to write pointless, offensive laws, how much more so should you question relatively unaccountable politicians who choose to leave family and friends to spend a good portion of the year legislating. Of course I don’t claim that neighborhood control would be as bad as the sort of thing that you’re talking about. Issues such as education, morality, and business draw a different sort of legislature than meddlesome arguments about aesthetics. And if Jefferson was correct, practicing self-governance makes citizens more worthy of democracy. The average citizen, in our political climate, doesn’t realize that he holds any real responsibility for the common good. If neighborhoods hold responsibility, members of the government either rise to the occasion or the failure is on display in front of all the neighbors.

On the other hand, I suppose that you are correct about the left holding to centralization, at least for as long as they control the national and international institutions shaping culture. It does seem, however, as if the language of democracy is a weakness in their technocratic grip. Friends of diverse localities should beat that meaningful democracy drum so hard that the centralizers are left with no choice but to admit that they do not think that the people are capable of governing themselves. Similarly, populists preaching diversity and democracy could really embarrass state activists who preach both while pushing for elite rule and legal homogeneity.

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