Possible Brexit Fallout: Decentralization

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While some things are still certain after the Brexit vote in June, most aren’t.

Though the argument that won the day was all about “taking back control” of the country, at least short term a quite likely result might be that nothing much will change in terms of control and the people will have merely exchanged one aloof, self-serving elite for another. I still think that Brexit is a royally stupid idea but in the end only time will tell.

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste, however.

So, I was wondering: Taking back control? That can be a reasonable goal (if it’s about more than just paying lip service or pandering to vague nationalistic sentiments) but why stop at the country level and not take this even further? Why shouldn’t we take back control at the local or even a completely non-spatial level?

In the wake of Brexit, a few interesting articles came up that explored decentralization both as a cause and a possible outcome of disintegration movements such as Brexit.

Brexit harshly brought to light how unfair politics often is and how democracy can gloss over often vast differences within a country’s population. Blanket decisions are made following a majority vote. These decisions equally concern very disparate groups within the population of a country, city dwellers vs. those living in the country for instance.

We often tend to forget that modern nation states are a fairly recent concept dating back to roughly the 18th century. Countries are far from the natural state of affairs they’re often depicted to be. By and large they’re arbitrary, artificial constructs whose borders are often just as arbitrary and the people they confine in most cases are far from homogeneous but rather culturally and linguistically diverse.

As much as the EU in its current state as a geographically-defined bloc could be considered a relic of colonial, pre-globalization times, nation states are a relic of pre-industrial, certainly pre-Information Age times that don’t seem adequate anymore to solve many of today’s issues.

Be it the tech industry, city states or a neo-medieval conglomeration of “overlapping authorities, divided sovereignty, multiple identities and governing institutions, and fuzzy borders”, a complex, networked and often scattered reality calls for dynamic and networked solutions as well.


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