Rick Harmes

Department: Social Sciences & International Studies
Discipline: Politics

Project Summary

Localism places a special value on the local and is increasingly prominent as a political doctrine. The literature suggests that localism operates in three ways: bottom-up, top-down and mutualistically. To assess its impact, localism needs to be seen within the broader context of multi-level governance.

In my thesis localism is examined in relation to three major themes: place/scale, public value (PV), and institutional design. Regarding place/scale, a key distinction is drawn between old and new localism. Old localism is about established local government, while new localism highlights the increasing room for manoeuvre that localities have in contemporary politics. This enables them to influence wider power structures, for example through trans-local organizing. With regard to public value, localist thinking can be applied to a range of major PV domains such as as sustainability, wellbeing and democracy, as well as to others such as territorial cohesion and intergovernmental mutuality. As for institutional design, the study is particularly concerned with 'sub--continental' political systems. A set of principles is proposed for the overall design of such systems, together with a framework of desirable policy outcomes at the local level. This can be used to evaluate how effective political systems are at creating public value.

The thesis presents a comparative study of localism in two significant sub-continental clusters: in India/Kerala/Kollam and the EU/UK/England/Cornwall. Both can be seen as contrasting 'exemplars' of localism in action. In India, Ghandian localism was a major factor in the nationwide local self-government reforms of 1993 and their subsequent enactment in the state of Kerala. In the EU, localism has been pursued through an economic federalism based on regions and sub-regions. This is at odds with the top-down traditions in British politics. The tension between these two approaches is being played out currently in the peripheral sub-region of Cornwall/Isles of Scilly. Cornwall's dilemma has been sharpened by Britain's recent decision to leave the EU.

The thesis considers the wider implications of the case studies, and presents some proposals for policymakers and legislators to consider, together with some proposals for further research.

Key words and phrases: localism; place; scale; multi-level governance; sustainability; wellbeing; democracy; cohesion; mutuality; system design; India; Kerala;  European Union; United Kingdom; England; Cornwall/Isles of Scilly; the British Political Tradition

The full text of the thesis can be accessed on Exeter University's research website at http://hdl.handle.net/10871/30140


Supervisory Team

Main supervisor: Professor Andrew Massey

Second supervisor: Dr Duncan Russel

Mentor: Dr Andy Schaap

Wider Research Interests

Social and Political Theory; Multi-level Governance; European and Indian Politics; Economic and Financial Policy; Environmental Policy and Sustainability; Human Development and Public Services; Local and Sub-national Government; Localism