Gary Olmstead recently explained the theory of “localism” at The American Conservative. He especially highlights the good work of Front Porch Republic, saying that the group’s take on localism is not the expected curmudgeonly stance, but instead “chronicles a resurgence of municipal activity and empowerment, noting the role technology is taking.” He writes (abridged):
People are at last beginning to pay attention to localism.
The idea behind the term is old—ancient even—but it appears to be “having a moment,” so to speak, in this fractured and divisive era. In their recently released book The New Localism, Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak argue for city-centric growth and governance, touting a more decentralized mode of leadership and problem solving.
Now, Mark Mitchell and Jason Peters have reassembled the FPR team to craft a new volume of essays titled Localism in the Mass Age. The essays cover a broad array of topics—from homecoming to foreign policy, urbanism to economics, agrarianism to the hookup culture.
Jeremy Beer’s essay on “philanthrolocalism” is a fascinating and important addition that considers the perils of big philanthropy and attempts at “global change.” Michael P. Federici argues for a more restrained and virtuous foreign policy in his essay on “modest republicanism,” one that would make prudence “the paramount principle,” thus “resisting the temptation to transform the world or act as its policeman.” On a more practical and personal level, in her essay “Birthright,” Katharine Dalton reminds us that “if you are going to love your neighbor, you must know your neighbor, and to know your neighbor you have to stick around.”
The topics covered in this volume are varied and surprising. Many see Front Porch Republic’s writings as a nostalgic appeal to agrarianism or a curmudgeonly denunciation of progressivism and technology. But in a fascinating essay titled “Do-It-Ourselves Citizenship,” Pete Peterson chronicles a resurgence of municipal activity and empowerment, noting the role technology is taking.
Localism must never become an excuse to dislike or judge the “other.” That’s why it is so important that localism not be a rural or Republican or nationalistic movement, but rather a principle of charity and empowerment applied to all peoples and places.
If the past few years are any indication, our national atmosphere is only going to grow in rancor and partisanship. We can respond to that by pressing into the muck and mire, fighting for “our side” (if we have one)—or we can seek a third way. For the past decade, Front Porch Republic’s authors have sought to present that third way.
Read more here.
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