A trend in the planning discourse tends to portray the local in a positive light. This paper critically examines
localism and regionalism, from a theoretical point of view, to find out whether this positive outlook may be
maintained. First the ontology of the local is examined, with its substantive, relational and experiential aspects.
As a complex, multi-dimensional process, localism is then analysed at the intersection of four dimensions of
power: territorial, representational, institutional, and functional. Boundaries are drawn, representations created,
relations within and beyond the locality arranged, and functions allocated. The analysis shows a tendency to
essentialise the local as a finished, circumscribed, commodified product, at odds with its multiplicity, diversity,
inequality, porous boundaries and relational reality. There is also a gap between the definitions and functions
allocated to the local in a hierarchical division of labour, relations with intra- and extra-local political and
economic forces, and the mythological narratives of autonomy.