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.
Barber currently holds the positions of Gershon and Carol Kekst Professor of Civil Society and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park School of Public Policy, as well as president and director of the international NGO CivWorld, and its annual Interdependence Day event, and distinguished senior fellow at Demos. As a political theorist, Bar...