Against Localism: Does Decentralising Power to Communities Fail Minorities?

Authors

  • PHIL PARVIN

    1. Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Trinity Hall.
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Abstract

The continued decline in levels of political engagement among British citizens has led many politicians, commentators and academics from across the political spectrum to advocate a move toward a more direct form of democracy via some kind of localism. The claim is that citizens feel increasingly estranged from the democratic process, and from those organisations on which they have historically relied to represent them within the political system. Consequently, localists argue, there now exists a gap between the people, the institutions which are supposed to work on their behalf, and the decisions made in their name, so the system needs to be reformed in such a way as to give individuals and local communities more of a direct input into the decision-making process. Calls for a more direct form of democracy via localism are popular among members of the progressive left and the ‘new Conservative’ right, and have become so dominant in political discourse that it is often suggested that ‘we are all localists now’. This article raises questions about the localist agenda, and suggests that the adoption of a more direct form of democracy in Britain may not only fail to address the decline in political engagement, but may also result in the exclusion, marginalisation, and oppression of minority groups.

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