I view localism as a social movement that supports increased local ownership of the economy, including public, private-sector, and nonprofit ownership. From this perspective, it is a reformist anti-globalization movement but one with historical linkages, at least in the U.S., to the history of populist and Progressive-era politics. The connections with sustainability and social justice issues are historically contingent, and I study places where those connections are stronger and weaker. I argue that localism is a distinctive political ideology, and in Good Green Jobs (MIT Press, 2012) I also develop a comparison with mainstream developmentalism.
The main research project coming from this project is Localist Movements in a Global Economy: Sustainability, Justice, and Urban Development in the United States (MIT Press), which is the first book-length social science study of localism. The book was developed from funding from the National Science Foundation (desribed below), which supported a summer training seminar for graduate students in 2005I examine the localist movement in the United States and focus on the types of organizations and projects where the goal of increased local ownership can be made consistent with sustainability and social fairness goals. Localism is understood as efforts to promote locally owned and controlled organizations such as small businesses, local government enterprises, and nonprofit organizations. I argue against the thesis that localism can be reduced to neoliberalism, a view that is sometimes found in the sociology of food and agriculture. Instead, I discuss the history of localist thought, its underlying concepts, and its differences from both social liberalism and neoliberalism.
Urban Sustainability Programs: Case Study Database
There are two case study databases associated with the localism research. Both sets of case studies can be accessed here: Case Study Database.The original set of case studies was developed as part of a summer graduate training session that took place in 2005 with support from the STS Program of the National Science Foundation (details below). The second set of case studies is the result of classroom projects at Vanderbilt University in sociology and urban-level sustainability politics. Undergraduates developed case studies of urban sustainability plans and specific examples of best practices as part of a course on local sustainability.
Publications and Talks:
2013 "Industrial Fields and Countervailing Power: The Transformation of Distributed Solar Energy in the United States." This paper was given in May, 2012, at the Conference on Grassroots Innovation, University of Sussex, and it is in press with Global Environmental Change. It tracks the marginalization of local ownership in the development of distributed solar energy in the U.S. The paper engages transition theory by developing the thesis of countervailing power in sustainability transitions. A copy of the paper is available on request. Prepublication version here.
2012 "Changing Frameworks in Local and Regional Sustainable Economic Development." Invited seminar for the Local Sustainable Economic Development Euro-Med Research Group, European Neighborhood Policy Instrument Cross-Border Cooperation in the Mediterranean (Portugal, Israel, Italy, Palestine), Project Wealth. Paper here.
2012 "Local and Not-so-Local Exchanges: Alternative Economies, Ethnography, and Social Science." In Jeff Juris and Alex Kasnabish, eds.,, Ethnography and Transnational Activism. Duke University Press. Final draft of chapter here.
2012 "Alternative Currencies in the Context of Localist Movements." Presentation given at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, panel on local currencies, economic sociology. Presentation here.
2011 "Building the Local Living Economy." Lecture given at Nashville Public Library, "Thinking Outside the Box" series. Video available on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jl3dOEBlCl0&feature=relmfu. The talk gives a summary of both my localist research and green jobs research for a broad public audience of about 200 people.
2011 Pathways to a Great Transition. Invited lecture, Tellus Institute. Here.
2010 Plenary talk at the Live Green conference. Here.
2010. "Declarations of Independents: On Local Knowledge and Localist Knowledge." Anthropological Quarterly 83(1): 147-170. Article here.
2008 "Localism and the Environment." Sociology Compass 2(2): 625-628. Final draft here.
2008 "Some Ways in to Research on Locally Owned, Independent Businesses." This is a bibliography for a talk that I gave at Capital District Local First. I helped found this affiliate network of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. Here.
2007 "Enhancing Justice and Sustainability at the Local Level: Affordable Policies for Urban Governments." By David Hess and Langdon Winner. Local Environment 12(4): 1-17. Related local Policy Paper here
2006 “The University and Sustainable Regional Industries.” In Arthur C. Nelson, Barbara Allen, and David Trauger, eds., Toward a Resilient Metropolis: The Role of State and Land Grant Universities in the 21st Century. Alexandria, VA: Metropolitan Institute Press. Pp. 29-51. Here.
2006 "Community Choice, Public Power, and Energy Conservation: Democracy, Sustainable Consumption, and the Problem of Scale." Paper presented at the RC-24 Conference on Sustainable Consumption. Available at www.michaelmbell.net/suscon-papers/hess-paper.doc.
2002 Workshop at Renssealer on "Technologies for Communities." The workshop included presentations on sustainable, healthy communities as well as work on information technologies, electronic media, and the built environment as they relate to building more sustainable, just, and democratic regions. More information is available here.
Description of the Original Research Project
Some of publicatoins and case studies (the first set of case studies, Local Environment paper, and book on localism) are the result of a project on "Sustainability, the Politics of Design, and Localism," sponsored by the National Science Foundation through the STS Program (SES 0425039). This project created case studies (see database link above) for teaching purposes and use by NGOs above as well as the publications above. The case studies examine organizational, technological, design, and social change where the goals of environmental sustainability, social fairness, and economic localism intersect. Langdon Winner served as co-PI on the project. Four graduate students--Colin Beech, Rachel Dowty, Govind Gopakumar, and Richard Hernandez--conducted some of the interviews and received training as part of the project. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.