|The old localism began in the days before money. People were more or less self
sufficient and traded by exchanging goods and services. They were very much in
control of what happened in their lives and knew very little about what was
happening in the rest of the world.
Colonialism changed all of that. Ordinary people lost control over the use of
their natural resources and became wage slaves and tax payers. Many of them went
to school where they studied history and geography. Their knowledge and
understanding about other nations and international trade increased.
Now there is something called Globalisation. The box describes three theories
about what the word means.
Whichever theory is correct there has been, since the 1970s, a worldwide shift
towards free market policies and a loss in government control over what happens
in national economies. Structural adjustment policies have led to deregulation,
privatisation, and decentralisation. This has made it easy for foreign companies
to have a huge influence over what happens in local economies.
This in turn means that a lot of power has shifted from elected politicians to
unelected businessmen. As a result ordinary people have gradually lost interest
in voting for representatives. They now take direct action through Civil Society
Organisations and they form social movements to influence the specific problems
which they are facing.
The basics of the political process is as old as time. There needs to be a
balance between politicians who want power, businessmen who want profit and
ordinary people who want justice and fair play. It might be argued that global
businessmen today have too much independence and that the system is out of
balance. This is why there is so much poverty and environmental destruction.
When the World Bank and the IMF set conditions for loans to the governments of
poor countries they look in two different directions at the same time. When
looking to the left they say that the Poverty Reduction Strategy should be built
through widespread participation and consultation and therefore be locally
owned. This means that there should be more democracy. When looking to the right
they say that there should be deregulation and privatisation. This means that
control will be given to businessmen who are not democratically accountable.
The new localism fits into the spaces which are created by this situation. Local
people have to understand the global forces which affect them. They can then
form alliances with groups and movements in their own country and build their
own non-profit undertakings, such as co-operatives, mutuals and social
enterprises. In addition they can link with like-minded social movements in
other countries to gather information and build their arguments (information
technology can help with this). Representatives of ordinary people can then have
a voice at table with politicians and businessmen. This is how ordinary people
can help to argue the case for social justice and environmental sustainability.