A large factor in holding distinctively Localist perspectives on political issues is the very question of the immediate environment.  If you were to step out of the front door, what would you see?  For some, it would be that which epitomises the rusticity of the English countryside.  For others—and it is this experience on which I will focus going forward—it is the concrete jungle, the urban landscape of density, height—the city.  Much of what characterises these particular landscapes are familiar to many, even if by proxy of the fact that there is a degree of urban sprawl present in previously suburban, or even rural, areas, by which new experiences and relations form in a semi-contiguity with processes of urbanisation.  It is not so much this particular process, by which it could be argued that the decomposition of the countryside takes place, but rather that process by which the corporate sanitisation of public spaces takes place, that will form the focal point of this piece.

Firstly, what is a city?  In the traditional and most straightforward definition, it is a town which hosts a cathedral.  Yet the very social orientation around Christianity which determined the initial definition is lacking in the modern discourse, and so, somewhat understandably, that definition too has changed.  Instead, and for the purpose of moving forward here, a city should be understood in very basic, though not strictly essentialist, terms.  That is to say that a city should itself be defined as an intensely concentrative environment, both of communities (demography) and wealth (economy), which has its own particular demands/necessities.  Likewise it is observable that in proportion to this extensive concentration there is a relative dehumanisation/depersonalisation of relationships: those interpersonal networks which typically subsist in smaller communities are found lacking.  Typically, as a result, those definitive characteristics which defined the locale are lost, consigned to a transvaluation of artificial and fundamentally meaningless pursuits.  Though sometimes there are attempts to subvert this decomposition, generally speaking, the social system transvalues itself to an administrative singularity, and more intensely are these administrative relations reified in systems of objective recognition and spatiality defined by their corporate perspective.  In other words, consumption and workplace position become the definitively signified objects of human pursuit, even to the extent of altering the way in which we conceptualise time and purpose.  It assumes a very ontological presence.

What characterises this corporate sanitisation most evidently is not quite the substitution of intersubjective recognition of one-another’s individuality (a very human correspondence) for an object of reification in the administrative mindset, which is much more subtle.  Rather, it is the very material way in which the questions of population density and control are dealt with which has the most striking impression.  Architecture, almost reminiscent of the cold and characterless Soviet aesthetic, adorns the streets as places to live, but subsist in vertical, not horizontal, extension, considered singularly.  Likewise do workplaces, extending vertically, dominate the landscape.  These patterns are of course multiplied, crowded together in blocks which underscore the famous metaphor of the concrete jungle, and in which land values inflate to such an extent that rent-seeking may have viable profitability.  It is upon this characteristic that I will focus hereafter.

This very structure is by design the epitome of the urban environment, focused most intensely upon the inner, rather than outer, city.  The latter is typically neglected and consigned to leprosy.  The corporate design is that which opts to hinge its focal point on a radical efficiency at all levels, structuring its spatiality which signifies itself similarly to a tree: its multiform intent consists of ordered layers which do not necessarily coordinate themselves in strict polarity, but rather from top to bottom, in singularity.  As vertical extension hangs overhead, imposing itself above the landscape, the ground-level terrain is usually designed in artifice to passively direct and guide human motion, particularly in shopping districts, as an example.  The point is that it is an explicitly psychological and, to some extent, ideological endeavour, inflated par excellence to a standard which seems almost anti-human.  Indeed, this very real mass enclosure of public environments, the confinement of human spatiality to passive directivity amidst concretised density, is an ongoing procedure.  This is its definitive endpoint, its purpose.  Its expansion will entail the further subsumption of uniqueness and historical connectivity.

In all of this there exists a certain rhizomatic paradox, being an incredibly human response to the attempted singularity of urban corporatism.  In contrast to the tree, the rhizomatic paradox is the structure of its roots.  These are the ways in which multiplicity is established, with no clear vertical structure perceptive of a defined endpoint.  It is an attempt to break back into the intersubjectivity of mutual recognition, characterised in such a way which could be defined as quasi-subversive when measured relative to the attempt of administrative singularity.  It is definitively anti-bureaucratic.  The case here is that this rhizomatic response is a way in which Localism may construct itself with virility.

If we consider this latter response as the opposite polarity from the constructed rigamortis of urban bureaucracy, it would present itself initially as a process of deconstruction.  To some extent, it must be.  In their own unique way, the patchwork of local cultures which escape rhizomatically the confines of the cosmopolitan straightjacket define themselves not as an endpoint but rather a constructive methodology whose proviso is the rehumanisation of our daily interactions, situated within an idiosyncratic cultural framework which is one of differentiation, of constant redefinition on its own terms amidst a field of multiplicity and divergence.  Strings are not destined to be pulled by faceless metropolitans, but rather, within the very apparatus of relationships in a very personal capacity.  It is about recollecting authenticity in such a way that it may be defined in a very human capacity, one in which we hold stakes by proxy of decision-making processes intimately tied to landscapes and communities with whom we are personally acquainted.

Of course, I am not here intending a prescriptive designation of what exactly must be where, for doing so would be to fall into the same centralising tendencies of the very administrative mindset that I have just criticised.  However, there are a few ways in which suggestions could extend this process to a material reality.  First and foremost would be those methods by which the idiosyncrasies of local cultures appear and represent themselves, both locally and across an extended political landscape.  This forms the elements of a unique expression.  Secondly, though by no means any less, much of this could be articulated by formative equivalencies, chains of agreement, between the community and their principle organisations: for example, the establishment of community-supported agriculture exchange networks, direct accountability/recall of all representatives, local investment/wealth funds with a corresponding local citizens’ dividend to replace bureaucratised welfare programmes, and so on.  All of these are merely suggestive, however, and, once again, should not be taken as some prescriptive planks to utopia.  Within the framework of this contribution overall, the purpose is to utilise this approach as part of an extensive generalisation of ways and means.  It is meta-theoretical, if you will, and will hopefully serve its intended purpose as providing considerations upon which the call for localised sovereignty may progress.

Disclaimer: Articles on this website are written from the perspectives of various Localists, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Local Matters. Our contributors come from a wide array of varying political backgrounds, and we believe that cooperation across the political spectrum is essential.