Localism and Globalism in the Libertarian Left

Rad Geek People’s Daily has been the host of a very interesting conversation (links here, here, and here) about localism and globalism within the libertarian left (hat tip to Roderick Long).  To throw in my belated $0.02, I find myself in agreement with Rad Geek, in that the solution to the problem is dialectical; that is, localist communities can be accommodated within a globalist framework without contradiction.  I think that Carson’s localist view is a pretty good prediction of what society will look like immediately post-state, before large-scale, truly voluntary associations can develop (and, ironically, it would probably provide an equal or higher standard of living than the current state-capitalist system, given how much wealth and productivity the ruling class sucks up).  Ultimately, though, I think that large-scale institutions and organizations will develop (think Proudhon and his “association of associations”), and a more extensive division of labor, either through entrepreneurs figuring out clever, non-statist solutions to the problem of high-tonnage, long-distance transportation, or through technology (nanotech, virtual reality, etc.) making the problem irrelevant (or a combination of both).  As far as the rest goes, I think Rad Geek said it best:

When I have my hoverbike, I’ll use it for a lot of things, and one of the things I hope to be able to do is to fly through uncountable different neighborhoods within the gleaming metropolis. Don’t forget that even New Tokyo will have neighborhoods, or at least I hope it will, because a city with no neighborhoods isn’t worth a damn. The always-ready hyperlocal holographic social networking mapping mash-up that shimmers into existence over my hoverbike dash will help me find landmarks and fascinating holes-in-the-wall and the good old hang-outs and the hot new things, with help from the interwoven knowledge of friends, visitors, and longtime locals. Some of the neighborhoods may be glass and steel; others may be orchards and wheat fields and villages; others campus gothic spires, grassy quads and libraries; others may be permaculture cities of green roofs and hanging gardens. They will speak many different languages; some will be young and others old; some will be slow and stable over time, and others will be frenetic and constantly changing. Some may be stable in structure while constantly changing in population (think of a University campus), and others may be exactly the reverse (think of an indie rock scene). Which ones are the best to visit, or to live in, will depend on the circumstances of life for each of us. (What you want by way of stability or surroundings when you’re 50 may be different from what you want when you’re 19. What I want at 27 may be different from what you want at 27. What I want in the summer may be different from what I want in the fall.) And that’s what’s beautiful about it. It’s the neighborhoods that makes the city glorious. But without the city, and the hoverbikes to fly through it, there wouldn’t be the neighborhoods, either. There would only be warehouses, deserts, and fortresses.  (source)


~ by wombatron on 05/04/2009.

5 Responses to “Localism and Globalism in the Libertarian Left”

  1. My input has essentially been that I favor both decentralization and globalization (in an economic sense) at once. I don’t think decentralization excludes the possibility of a division of labor and healthy degree of interconnectivity between localities.

  2. Glocalism, y’all. Glocalism.

  3. wombatron,

    Thank you for the kind notice. I agree that there’s an important distinction to be made between the likely short-run results of freeing markets and the long-term results that you could expect as we move deeper into the anarchic future. (On the other hand, I’m also much less confident predicting anything specific about what deep anarchy would look like, because the far future is hard to predict in general, and in particular because predictions about short-run results can hook into your knowledge of how coercion is pushing things in the actually-existing world, whereas predictions about deep anarchy depend on feedback loops and developments that get increasingly unpredictable because they increasingly involve innovations rather than just repairing existing damage.)

    I will say that, while I expect global forms of organization to proliferate and flourish as communication gets better, and State barriers to communication and interaction are knocked down, that needn’t necessarily imply “large-scale” voluntary organizations, if “large” refers to the number of people involved rather than the geographical expanse. One of the things I expect to see is a lot more little voluntary associations with global reach. As we get deeper into anarchy, people may develop more in the way of federations and “associations of associations” out of these small pieces loosely joined; on the other hand, I also expect that a lot of coordination will fall back on massive global spontaneous orders, more than it will on massive global organizations, even if the latter are decentralized and full of caucuses and scrupulously federative in structure.


    Glocalism, y’all. Glocalism.

    I first heard the word “glocal” back in 2001 as part of a delegation from Auburn heading up to SURGE, a counter-globalization conference in Chapel Hill, No’ Carolina. At the time, I thought that was the pug-ugliest bit of political neologism I’d ever heard from someone whose project I was broadly sympathetic to. 8 years have passed, and I still don’t think I’ve heard anything more ill-constructed. (Although “heteronormativity” comes close.)

  4. Pug-ugly? Sure. It does get the point across though that notions of localism and globalism aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. If anyone can think of something better, I’d love to hear it.

  5. Lobalism? Although that sounds like a religion that worships Lobo from DC Comics.

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