Benjamin R. He was His cause gained urgency with the rise of globalization and the growing resentment of traditional societies against the secular, consumerist values of Western capitalism. The nation-dissolving forces of information technology and global markets were on a collision course, he argued, with resurgent religious fundamentalism and parochial loyalties deriving from blood and soil. Barber told The Washington Post after the Sept.
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Rarely, as Richard Falk writes in The Great Terror War , has an event exerted such leverage on the collective imagination of a society as did the terrorist attacks of September In a few moments on that perfect late-summer morning, Americans' collective sense of security was shattered and geopolitical assumptions that had remained fixed for the better part of five decades were suddenly untethered from their Cold War moorings.
A day later, on September 12, President George W. Bush vowed to fight global terrorism, and nine days after that, before a joint session of Congress, he expanded the scope of the war to include governments that harbor and support terrorists. At that moment, however, members of the Bush administration and Congress were already looking ahead to the next phase of the war — the elimination of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction WMDs.
On December 11, , the House passed Joint Resolution 75, which declared Iraq's refusal to allow United Nations weapons inspectors "immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to facilities and documents covered by United Nations Security Council Resolution a mounting threat to the United States, its friends and allies," and called for the Iraqi leader to disarm or face the consequences.
In an interview conducted in February, Philanthropy News Digest spoke with political scientist Benjamin Barber, author of the international best-seller Jihad vs. Barber is the Gershon and Carol Kekst Professor of Civil Society at the University of Maryland and a principal of the Democracy Collaborative , a nonprofit institute committed to strengthening democracy and civil society locally, nationally, and globally.
His fifteen books include Strong Democracy ; Jihad vs. He writes frequently for Harper's Magazine , the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Nation, as well as other scholarly and popular publications in America and Europe, and was a founding editor and, for ten years, editor-in-chief of the international quarterly Political Theory. Barber holds a certificate from the London School of Economics and an M.
He lives with his wife, the choreographer and performer Leah Kreutzer, and daughter in New York City. Philanthropy News Digest: Your book, Jihad vs. McWorld , was published in , long before most Americans had heard of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. What motivated you to write the book? Benjamin Barber: The book originated in the puzzlement I felt in looking at two different genres of commentaries about the world at that time which seemed to me to be deeply contradictory.
One genre was perhaps best reflected in a book like Robert Kaplan's The End of the Earth and, a few years later, by Sam Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations , a genre that suggested the world was falling apart. Tribalization, urban breakdown, the breakup of the nation-state, the Balkan crisis that had begun with the breakup of Yugoslavia, the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Northern League in Italy, the ongoing Basque separatist movement in Spain — all of those things had created a sense, quite literally, that nation-states, which had defined the world for centuries, were breaking down into their constituent parts.
Indeed, if you opened up the front page of any newspaper, that's the sense you got. On the other hand, there were books like Francis Fukiyama's The End of History which suggested that the nation-state was disintegrating because of the emergence of a global society, a society in which capitalist markets had triumphed and the old polar divisions among ideologies had disappeared.
It was a world coalescing around communications, technology, trade interdependence, global markets, transnational corporations, and the like. And that world — a world that was, in effect, coming together — was perhaps best reflected in your newspaper's business pages. So here you had these two portraits of the world, one showing the world falling to pieces and the other saying it was coming together, and both of them seemed to me to be true, however contradictory.
So I set out to write a book to try to map and explain a world in which both those statements could be true at the same time, and indeed were true in ways that related to one another and actually had something to do with some of the same forces.
Obviously, I used jihad as a general rubric under which I could examine the zealous, anti-modern, disintegrative forces that were helping break the world into pieces, and I invented the term McWorld to refer to the axis of global communication and pop culture, global technology, and global trade around which the world was coming together. PND: You've argued that the struggle between these two forces, jihad and McWorld, is not a clash of Islam versus the West, as suggested by Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations , but is in fact a war within a single civilization.
Can you elaborate? BB: Indeed, I suggested it is not only a war within a single civilization, but that it's a war within each society — and to some extent a war within each of our own heads. Let's start with the individual, because it's most clearly seen there. Most moderns who I know live in large, cosmopolitan cities and are drawn to the effortlessness of their technology-driven world and the ease with which they can communicate or travel, by jet or, indeed, instantaneously via the Internet, to any country on the planet.
At the same time, many of them have a feeling of loss that stems from the absence of the tight-knit family and neighborhood ties that so many of us grew up with and that represented a kind of parochial but nourishing sense of community.
In other words, jihad vs. McWorld is a kind of clash between the values of a global, cosmopolitan, free-market society on the one hand, and the precious and intimate values of the family, neighborhood, and clan that all of us still feel some attachment to. Moreover, in writing about jihad , I wasn't referring only to Islam but, for example, to Protestant fundamentalists within the United States, two million of whom have opted out of the public school system and, because they are so appalled by what they regard as a public culture dominated by the corrupt values of Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the mall, home-school their children instead.
I mean, if you read Pat Buchanan or Bill Bennett or some of the other so-called cultural conservatives on the right, their critiques of American culture are not too much different than the critique you might hear from a mullah in a Wahabbi mosque who preaches against the corruption and aggressive secular materialism of the West. That said, my analysis did suggest that as time progressed, the contest between these two sets of forces would grow more and more intense and was likely to erupt in various ways, some of which could involve material violence.
You know, infection is a manifestation of a systemic illness that has not been remediated, medically. If you don't do that, the infection can get worse and can even cause a fever that can kill you.
And, to extend the analogy, if those tensions are not remediated by forms of democratic medicine, they are increasingly likely to erupt in pathological ways. Now, who could have predicted that the pathology that erupted on September 11 would be quite so complete and devastating? I mean, even Osama bin Laden was surprised by the efficacy and success that his agents achieved. But the fact that a clash of this kind will erupt in violence, if not dealt with by other means, can hardly have come as a surprise to anyone who has thought about the collision of these forces.
And if those tensions are not remediated, they are increasingly likely to erupt in pathological ways PND: In the days immediately following September 11, many Americans were stunned by the images broadcast on network television of ordinary Arab women and children celebrating the success of the attacks and, by extension, the deaths of thousands of American civilians. What did those images say to you? BB: Well, a couple of things.
I mean, there's a tendency to think somehow that there's no boundary at all between such people, but I don't think that's true. The second thing we have to acknowledge is that if thousands, even tens of thousands, of people seem to be taking some pleasure in what was obviously, even to them, a horrendous event in which thousands of civilians — not just from the United States but from something like sixty other countries and including many Muslims — perished, then clearly a lot more is going on here that we need to be thinking about.
And I think what it points to is the fact that an awful lot of people around the world — and, by the way, the celebrations weren't confined to Arab or Muslim countries — clearly see America as not the solution to the world's problems, as we like to think it is or want it to be, but as part of the problem.
In particular, I think there are many people around the world who feel that the United States has been much too insulated from the pain that so many people around the world suffer on a daily basis. I mean, one person I know from a developing country said that while he didn't take pleasure in what happened on September 11, a part of him was glad that the United States got a taste of the suffering that his friends and their families experience as a matter of course.
In one horrendous hour or two, he said, you experienced what our children, our mothers, and our fathers experience, slowly, over decades of starvation, impoverishment, injustice, and oppression. You now live in a world whose interdependence means that if our children are not safe, maybe your children won't be safe anymore. So, I think a lot of what we saw in those images of celebrating women and children was not so much a vulgar or evil pleasure in our pain as it was a kind of satisfaction that maybe, finally, America would begin to appreciate how insecure so many people around the world feel and would begin to understand that it had to do more than it was doing to address the problems that affect other people, in other countries.
In fact, I would say that that's the central meaning of the term "interdependence," which is a term I didn't speak much about in Jihad vs. McWorld but have been writing about more recently. It's the sense that we're all passengers on a single vessel, and if steerage is flooding and the people in fourth and fifth class are going to drown, so are the people up in first class.
PND: In a new introduction to Jihad vs. Is that still your view? BB: Well, actually what I'd said in the original book was that although the two forces were manifestations of common, central developments in our civilization and to some extent would always co-exist, I believed that in the long term McWorld and modernity would overcome the forces of anti-modernity represented by jihad. Ultimately, in other words, we wouldn't go backward; we would go forward.
But I also said there might be some mighty dangerous curves along the road. And that suggests that, if we continue on the course we're on without altering some of our strategies and taking more into account the just claims and needs of people around the world, we are likely to be in for a very, very bumpy ride.
BB: I've just completed a book on what I call the profound mistake of the new preventive-war doctrine unveiled by the Bush administration as its chief instrument against terrorism. And in that vein I would certainly make the argument that a war on Iraq, though I believe it is being pursued for better motives than just those of oil or vengeance, is nonetheless a catastrophe for the long-term interests of democracy and justice around the world — not least because the war is, in effect, directed against the wrong enemy.
Terrorists are not states. As Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld himself said, "Terrorists are stateless individuals without fixed interests or addresses. However, because they are stateless, and because they are without fixed interests and addresses, it's very hard to find them, let alone take them out, as we learned in Afghanistan, where most of the Qaeda cadres, including Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, got away.
And to now move on to the next state, Iraq, and think that by knocking out the regime of Saddam Hussein we're going to get al Qaeda is simply a deep and disastrous mistake.
Whom do we go after next? Maybe Egypt, or Indonesia followed by the Philippines? I mean, if we're really going to try to take out every state that harbors terrorists, we're going to have to take out New Jersey and Florida as well. Let me be clear.
You cannot make war on an invisible enemy that inhabits the interstices of the international system by attacking states, even if you can prove a link between those states and terrorism. Terrorists are like parasites; they move into a host body, where they are harbored and maybe even nourished, but when the host dies or, as often happens, the parasite kills the host, the parasite just move onto the next body.
That's why it's the wrong war against the wrong target. Of course many Americans and, I think, many Europeans feel that instinctively. What about al Qaeda? Isn't this just going to encourage the terrorists?
So in many different ways, the Bush administration's current policy vis-a-vis Saddam Hussein and Iraq seems to be disastrous. Don't get me wrong — I'm not a pacifist. I'm not arguing that America doesn't have a right to strike back at terrorists and terrorism. The problem, simply put, is that Iraq is not a terrorist state, and even if it harbors and supports terrorists, states are not surrogates for the terrorist enemy we're after.
PND: If, as you've suggested, an exclusively military response to the phenomenon of global terrorism is as bad as the disease itself, what should the West's response to the terrorist threat focus on? BB: Well, there's a saying that goes, "If you want to kill the mosquitos, drain the swamp," and I think that's a pretty useful way to look at the problem. You're never going to get anywhere swatting one mosquito after another, because even if you swat a whole bunch of them, they'll continue to breed as long as the swamp is still there.
The swamp in this case is — to mix my own metaphors — the so-called "axis of evil. But to some degree it's the brutal reflection of what I would call an axis of inequality, an axis of impoverishment. There's no question that unstable, undemocratic, impoverished states are the best breeding ground for terrorism, particularly states that feel threatened by secular, materialist, global markets — in other words, by McWorld.
And if we're serious about getting rid of the conditions that breed terrorism, then we need to begin to address the questions of global inequality, of predatory capitalist speculators around the world, of the deep inequalities between rich and poor. It's not just an economic issue, although that's an important piece of it. There's also an important cultural component — and this comes back to our Protestant fundamentalist, to Jewish fundamentalists in Israel, to Hindi fundamentalists in India, as well as Islamic fundamentalists, all of whom see in our aggressively secular, aggressively materialist, entertainment-saturated culture a violent, sexualized, corrupt society bent on undermining the values they hold most dear.
Most of us completely ignore the fact that, in many ways, our culture is corrupt, even though we know it had something to do with what happened in Columbine, we know it has something to do with the persistent violence in our society, we know it has something to do with the corruption of ethics in religion, we know that predatory capitalism, unrestrained by regulation, can lead to Enron-style greed and lying. But we continue, heedlessly, to export this same culture via the global marketplace to countries where there is no regulation, where there is no SEC, where there is no democratic oversight and then are amazed that people in those countries fail to welcome it as something that liberates and enriches them — even though it can, in fact, do that — but instead see it as an aggressive assault on the values they hold dear and wish to pass on to their children.
Do we really need a Starbucks on every corner of every city in the world? That's not economic competition; that's cultural monopoly So until we begin to operate on the world stage with some self-restraint and moderation and understand that the secular materialism we export so aggressively is viewed elsewhere as a corrupting influence, I think we're going to have a lot of trouble.
We need to begin to understand that rather than simply relying on a single-minded military response to the phenomenon of terrorism, we need to respond to it economically, diplomatically, and culturally. I mean, it's fine for McDonald's to open a couple of franchises in Beijing and maybe even a hundred in China as a whole.
Jihad Vs McWorld
MCWORLD is an essential text for anyone who wants to understand the challenges facing us after the tragic events of September 11, and in light of the current conflict in the Middle East. In a groundbreaking work, political scientist Benjamin R. Barber offers a penetrating analysis of the central conflict of our times: consumerist capitalism versus religious and tribal fundamentalism. These diametrically opposed but intertwined forces are tearing apart - and bringing together - the world as we know it, undermining democracy and the nation-state on which it depends.
Benjamin R. Barber, Author, 'Jihad vs. McWorld: Democracy As an Antidote to Terrorism'
Look Inside. Jihad vs. McWorld is a groundbreaking work, an elegant and illuminating analysis of the central conflict of our times: consumerist capitalism versus religious and tribal fundamentalism. These diametrically opposed but strangely intertwined forces are tearing apart—and bringing together—the world as we know it, undermining democracy and the nation-state on which it depends. On the other hand, ethnic, religious, and racial hatreds are fragmenting the political landscape into smaller and smaller tribal units. McWorld is the term that distinguished writer and political scientist Benjamin R. Barber has coined to describe the powerful and paradoxical interdependence of these forces.
Library Hub Discover
Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World is a book by American political scientist Benjamin Barber , in which he puts forth a theory that describes the struggle between "McWorld" globalization and the corporate control of the political process and " Jihad " Arabic term for "struggle", here modified to mean tradition and traditional values , in the form of extreme nationalism or religious orthodoxy and theocracy. Benjamin Barber similarly questions the impact of economic globalization as well as its problems for democracy. As neoliberal economic theory —not to be confused with social liberalism —is the force behind globalization, this critique is relevant on a much larger scale. Unregulated market forces encounter parochial which he calls tribal forces. These tribal forces come in many varieties: religious, cultural, ethnic, regional, local, etc. As globalization imposes a culture of its own on a population, the tribal forces feel threatened and react.
Benjamin R. Barber, Author of ‘Jihad vs. McWorld,’ Dies at 77
Rarely, as Richard Falk writes in The Great Terror War , has an event exerted such leverage on the collective imagination of a society as did the terrorist attacks of September In a few moments on that perfect late-summer morning, Americans' collective sense of security was shattered and geopolitical assumptions that had remained fixed for the better part of five decades were suddenly untethered from their Cold War moorings. A day later, on September 12, President George W. Bush vowed to fight global terrorism, and nine days after that, before a joint session of Congress, he expanded the scope of the war to include governments that harbor and support terrorists. At that moment, however, members of the Bush administration and Congress were already looking ahead to the next phase of the war — the elimination of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction WMDs. On December 11, , the House passed Joint Resolution 75, which declared Iraq's refusal to allow United Nations weapons inspectors "immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to facilities and documents covered by United Nations Security Council Resolution a mounting threat to the United States, its friends and allies," and called for the Iraqi leader to disarm or face the consequences. In an interview conducted in February, Philanthropy News Digest spoke with political scientist Benjamin Barber, author of the international best-seller Jihad vs.