The spring issue of The New Atlantis features a symposium on place. Check it out. Of special interest is a piece by Brian Brown titled “The Rise of Localist Politics.” Here is a taste:

Meanwhile, a small “new right” has begun to emerge: more localist than nationalist, more Burke than Hayek, and fairly amicable with the New Left (many of its members are not Republicans). In Britain, a similar coterie has gained significant political influence with the ascendancy of Prime Minister David Cameron and his “Big Society,” encouraging people to get involved in their communities instead of relying on the government for services. In the United States, it is mainly comprised of offbeat academics, has few formal organizations, and has the Internet for its main intellectual outlet, on sites such as FrontPorchRepublic.com — an opinion source for so-called “crunchy cons,” as Rod Dreher called them in his book of the same name. “There are hopeful signs that people are beginning to think seriously about the importance of localism, human scale, limits, and stewardship, the very things woefully lacking in the current spending orgy,” writes Mark Mitchell, a professor at Patrick Henry College and a regular contributor to FrontPorchRepublic.com. “While a return to these ideals is still only in its infancy, change is afoot. This represents a glimmer of sanity in a world succumbing to the apparent security promised by centralization.”

But overall, the new right is still at a theoretical stage: its adherents rarely offer specific policy proposals, and too frequently, its ideas are unspecific or unrealistic. This new right has little political influence and no organized strategy. But, like the right in general, it has devoted a great deal of thought to foundational ideas from which specific policies could be developed.

While localism has so far been a movement mostly on the left, it seems ripe for the right to take it up as its own. Indeed, it remains difficult to fully reconcile localism with the left’s remaining adherence to centralized government and rational planning. Localism is philosophically more at home on the right: at the heart of conservatism is a belief in the value of relationships, self-government, and local institutions. It is high time for the right to put the policy together with the principles. We are, after all, the change that we’ve been waiting for.

Yes, we at FPR have, I think, “devoted a great deal of thought to foundational ideas from which specific policies could be developed.”  While it is true that we thus far have “little political influence and no organized strategy” we don’t apologize for attempting to articulate a coherent theory of localism. Our up-coming conference is a first formal step in our effort to focus more intentionally on practice, policy, and an organized strategy. If you are interested in attending, register here.

 

Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture

3 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve said before, I’m not participating here in an effort to influence political theater in these United States. I’m here because I need to scratch an intellectual itch that informs a set of civic virtues. I need to think about what eudaimonia means today and commit to live it as I can. It is good to spend time with others who might sharpen one another “as iron sharpens iron”.

    There is a very real question whether or not one can actually be a conservative at all. For once you are cut from the vine, how will you be restored? This is a hard teaching, but it cuts through so much of the delusional material (in myself, in FPR and in the wider world).

  2. Best wishes for the conference. I heard Wendell Berry speak tonight at the Lexington Horse Center. Very good vibes and some fine draft horses in a pull-competition. Hung out afterwards with some Liberty University grads afterwards, several of which are enthusiastic participants in a Wendell Berry book group that meets in Lynchburg’s soulful Inklings-themed cafe/pub the White Hart.

  3. There is a lot implied by the statement: “This new right has little political influence and no organized strategy.”

    However veiled it may be, this is a challenge, and it is a deceptive and dangerous challenge. It is akin to asking us FPR readers, “Are you man enough to step into oncoming traffic?” It’s a ridiculous thing to ask, and would be foolish to take the bait.

    Consider the second point first: if we are going to call conservative localists the “new right,” then the new right will be successful if it has NO organized strategy. Considered as a group at the national level, the best we can do –by definition– is offer a toolkit of suggestions and local case studies. (FPR itself would obviously not have an organized strategy because it is an online “publication.”) A town or city with “new right” leadership, on the other hand, SHOULD HAVE THEIR OWN organized strategy. This is the basic concept of localism, that each locality has their own way of doing things. “Dissensus” (which John Michael Greer explains well) will be the secret to our society’s success in the coming years.

    As for the first point: when people in America today talk about “political influence,” what they really mean is political influence at the FEDERAL level. And yet I don’t think an influence on the Federal government is something the new right should aspire to (nor will it be successful because of). Influence at the LOCAL and STATE level, however, is something to aspire to, and would be a measure of our success.

    Now some may argue that the new right SHOULD have influence at the Federal level– that obviously being the “lobbying” for the Federal government to get out of the way so that localism can flourish. I think we all know in our bones, however, that once a lobby is born it will acquire a life of its own and even if it accomplishes its goal it won’t stop there. Look at how Liberalism accomplished its goal and yet continues on its war-path: everybody who possibly could be was “liberated” almost 50 years ago, but the crusade still continues. Each day brings ever more imaginary oppressors to “liberate” us from.

    Overall, I think its an illusion (and completely missing the point) to hope that a “new right” of conservative localists will one day become an organized movement at the national level. If we are successful, we will not be organizing on a national level (but we will hopefully continue corresponding on a national level).

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