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Jihad vs. McWorld: Terrorism's Challenge to Democracy Paperback – July 30, 1996
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As soon as you hear the conceit of this book--that there are two great opposing forces at work in the world today, border-crossing capitalism and splintering factionalism, and that they are the two biggest threats to democracy--you know it rings true enough to be worth reading. Although capitalism could have only grown to current levels in the soil of democracies, Benjamin Barber argues that global capitalism now tends to work against the very concept of citizenship, of people thinking for themselves and with their neighbors. Too often now, how we think is the product of a transnational corporation (increasingly, a media corporation) with headquarters elsewhere. And although self-determination is one of the most fundamental of democratic principles, unchecked it has lead to a tribalism (think Bosnia, think Rwanda) in which virtually no one besides the local power elite gets a fair shake. The antidote, Barber concludes, is to work everywhere to resuscitate the non-governmental, non-business spaces in life--he calls them "civic spaces" (such as the village green, voluntary associations of every sort, churches, community schools)--where true citizenship thrives. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Political scientist Barber examines the rise of both intolerant tribal identities and international consumerism.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
The choice of title is very catchy (Coca Cola und Heiligerkrieg, in the German translation) but the title will turn some readers off automatically, post 9/11. The theme, however, is not at all Islam per se, but more generally tribalism and fundamentalism vs globalization of capital, labor and production via deregulation of markets. By tribalism in this context is meant any ethnic group that still is bound together culturally and geographically, in contrast with the destabilizing influence of unregulated free markets on a global scale where the dominant idea is that everything should be for sale with as high liquidity as possible (deregulation"). E.g., I live most of each year in a relatively tribal area, Tirol. I see "tribal" as something positive, as a synonym for cultural stability. Much of Europe is still tribal in this sense, in contrast with the US where, since the Reagan-Friedman era and the consequent right wing revolution of 1994, everything goes. Maintaining tradition (social stability"), in contrast, requires the drying up of liquidity. It requires rules (either written or understood) against unlimited trading and therefore against unlimited development. It requires rules stating that a meadow or beach cannot be sold to a hotel or to a condo developer. Simply ask yourself: why do Houston and Gatlinburg look and feel so different than Oslo and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, e.g., or (closer to home) why do Telluride and Ruidosa look and feel so different than Silverton? The answer is: some degree of tradition has been maintained in the latter places via rules against development. People who think that Gatlinburg is normal" and that Silverton is backward" will not understand the main point of Barber's book, or of this review.
Globalization via deregulation (or, simple, "globalization") based on rapid communication has led to the abdication of responsibility. E.g., I suggest trying to reach Ford with a question about your car. You will reach a woman who can answer the telephone, but who cannot answer any technical question whatsoever, nor can she find anyone else who can answer your question. She represents a dead end, anaolgous to Kafka's Castle". Global capitalism is like The Castle", or like a huge thermodynamic heat bath: it influences and controls everything that it touches but is itself subject to no reactive influence. This lack of responsiveness, which also feeds on economic ignorance, is the breeding ground for religious fundamentalists to become terrorists.
The propagation of globalization via deregulation as progress" is based on an implicit belief in the reliability of Adam Smith's Invisible Hand. The Invisible Hand purportedly stabilizes markets and brings them into equilibrium. We know now, empirically, that unregulated free markets are dynamically unstable. In contrast with reality, textbook economics still successfully propagates the mythology of equilibrium`, the absolutely noncomplex idea that supply can generally rise to match demand. Were this true, then in the absence of all regulations there should be no unemployment, e.g.. Real markets are not like that. Real unregulated markets are lawless because there is no social-economic analog of physics, of natural mathematical law. The only law of the marketplace is man made law. Deregulation therefore leads to unexpected new problems that are worse than the ones it purports to solve, as is illustrated by the recent economic histories of Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and a host of other Third world countries. Unfortunately for Europe, the EU is a relatively dictatorial, mainly financial, body whose main function is apparently to replace globalize the EU countries, but this is not adequately discussed by Barber either. And the US? The outlook is hopeless until people wake up and realize that they've been taken for a bad ride, that they''re on a collision course led by ideologues who want that collision.
In essence, Barber demonstrates that what we consider to be good in the industrialized world -- specifically, an ever-expanding capitalist, consumerist lifestyle -- is viewed with deadly suspicion by many in the non-industrialized world. That's because the wholesale acceptance of our culture is perceived by many of the world's poor as a threat to their traditional lifestyles.
The author points out that capitalism originally took root and flourished because of Western democracy's ability to curb the excesses of unfettered profit-making. But today's multinational corporations are no longer restrained by democratic forces in many parts of the third world. There, capitalism works in the name of absentee investors as a predatory force, stripping communities of their material and cultural resources, creating a branded, homogenous "McWorld" that too often leaves multitudes of impoverished people in its wake.
Such conditions breed anger and resentment against Westerners in general and often against the American symbols of global capitalism in particular. In the worst case scenarios, negative energy is manifested by terrorism. So as the multinationals connect the world more closely together with sophisticated communications and production systems, "tribal units" such as terrorist organizations strive at the same time to tear this world apart.
Somehow, "global democracy" needs to catch up with economic globalisation, the author reasons, to secure a more stable "global civil society". Such a world should more equitably balance the needs of people with capitalism. Barber believes that if people were truly empowered as citizens they could reshape their communities to better serve their own needs. In the end, this would effectively diminish the attractiveness of joining in the ultimately self-destructive world of "Jihad".
Furthermore, the long-term growth of capitalism itself also requires stable markets. Barber points out that unless we more equitably share the benefits of capitalism with so-called emerging market countries, the instabilities that are created will eventually undermine our own success too.
As policy makers struggle to learn how we can prevent another attack from happening, we would do well to consider the intelligent analysis in this outstanding book.