Newsweek is running a great piece on the “new localism,” the phrase used to describe the manner in which Americans are becoming less mobile and more rooted.
Thriving neighborhood restaurants are one small data point in a larger trend I call the new localism. The basic premise: the longer people stay in their homes and communities, the more they identify with those places, and the greater their commitment to helping local businesses and institutions thrive, even in a downturn. Several factors are driving this process, including an aging population, suburbanization, the Internet, and an increased focus on family life. And even as the recession has begun to yield to recovery, our commitment to our local roots is only going to grow more profound. Evident before the recession, the new localism will shape how we live and work in the coming decades, and may even influence the course of our future politics.
It seems as the “Way of Improvement” is leading “Home” at an increasing rate these days. I can’t help but think the late Christopher Lasch (and Philip Vickers Fithian) would have been pleased with this trend. Over at Front Porch Republic, Russell Arben Fox (fitting surname for a guy who teaches at a place called Friends University) defends Lasch’s vision against the naysayers. He reminds us that Lasch’s brand of conservatism (if you can call it that) has never been easy to figure out.
So readers of Lasch–perhaps especially Front Porch Republic readers of Lasch, drawn to him because of his populist case for an economy of producers, a society of communities and neighborhoods and families–remain confused. He praises Progressive reforms, but attacks the dole. He speaks glowingly of strikes and labor unrest, and calls it all “conservative.” How to defend such a person, when you don’t know which direction the target is facing when attacks come from left and right?
We can expect some help in making sense of Lasch from Eric Miller’s forthcoming biography: Hope in Scattering Time: A Life of Christopher Lasch (Eerdmans, 2010).