The Tower of Babel Syndrome: locality and governance in response to the ecological crisis

Gussen, Ben (2011) The Tower of Babel Syndrome: locality and governance in response to the ecological crisis. Honours thesis, University of Auckland, New Zealand . (Unpublished)


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This dissertation furnishes a weltanschauung dominated by a Copernican shift where localism is brought to the centre of any effective response to the ecological crisis—and by doing so surrendering all other scales of social organization (from the national to the global) to subsidiarity. The dissertation has two main branches; both investigate the role of localism in relation to the ecological crisis. The first suggests that the causes of the crisis share a common denominator, namely detachment of people from their locale, leading to insatiable growth. The prime culprit here is social organising at the ‘national’ scale, especially after the French Revolution of 1789, although a second, more destructive, wave of delocalisation is now ushered by a specific form of globalisation—top-down globalisation. The second branch of this dissertation examines the role of localism in the historical (pre-Enlightenment) and modern (post-Enlightenment) responses to the ecological crisis. Historically, localism was the leitmotif of the historical discourse, form legislative instruments right down to policy implementation. The historical response was well within the ethics and spirit of local autonomy and self-determination. Today, however, the response is at best patronising to all that is local. Positivist dementia of instrumentality dominates the international law instruments formulating the response. Even the aspirational Earth Charter succumbs to this instrumentality. The current response marginalises localism through the fiction of ‘indigenous peoples’, through the ‘universal human rights’ paradigm, and above all through the illusion of the ‘complexity imperative’ which leave no option but to coordinate the response (to the ecological crisis) at the global scale. Notwithstanding, there is now a growing understanding of the importance of localism, shared by international organisations such as the UN and the World Bank, and the civil society. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the unitary central government in New Zealand. Resurrecting localism is the emancipatory project of our time.

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Item Type: Thesis (Non-Research) (Honours)
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: C.copyright © Ben Gussen 2010. Bachelor of Laws (Honours), University of Auckland.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business and Law - School of Law (1 Jan 2011 - 30 Jun 2013)
Supervisors: Palmer, Kenneth
Date Deposited: 28 Mar 2017 06:28
Last Modified: 28 Mar 2017 06:31
Uncontrolled Keywords: localism, complexity, ecological crisis, environmental law, subsidiarity
Fields of Research (2008): 14 Economics > 1499 Other Economics > 149999 Economics not elsewhere classified
18 Law and Legal Studies > 1899 Other Law and Legal Studies > 189999 Law and Legal Studies not elsewhere classified
Fields of Research (2020): 38 ECONOMICS > 3899 Other economics > 389999 Other economics not elsewhere classified
48 LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES > 4899 Other law and legal studies > 489999 Other law and legal studies not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): C Society > 94 Law, Politics and Community Services > 9499 Other Law, Politics and Community Services > 949999 Law, Politics and Community Services not elsewhere classified

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