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In this article, I explore the relationship between linguistic diversity and political power. Specifically, I outline some of the ways that linguistic diversity has served as a barrier to the centralization of power, thus constraining, for example, the political practice of empire-formation. A brief historical example of this dynamic is presented in the case of Spanish colonialism of the 16th-century. The article proceeds then to demonstrate how linguistic diversity remains tied to struggles against forms of domination. I argue that in contemporary indigenous movements for linguistic security, the languages themselves are not merely conceived of as the object of the political struggle, but also as the means to preserve a space for local action and deliberation – a ‘politics of local community’. I show that linguistic diversity and the devolution of political power to the local level are in a mutually reinforcing relationship. Finally, I consider the implications of this thesis for liberal theorizing on language rights, arguing that such theory cannot fully come to terms with this political-strategic dimension of language struggles.