In nature, there are always at least two forces acting on each other. They either tend to be always in opposition to one another to ultimately destroy the other or to create a new force that is a mixture of elements coming from each of the present forces. In society, Benjamin Barber identified two forces or tendencies, given the political and economic trends at the time of his writing, which may come in to being and could pose a threat to democracy as we know it: tribalism and globalism. At the present time, “Jihad Vs. McWorld” offers a good retrospective view of things that had just recently occurred.
Students of history are offered a good summary of how things were going at the end of the last century and how these could possibly come out, if it had not yet turned out to be so, today, and a possible means of securing democracy that can withstand the forces of McWorld and Jihad. As a political theorist, Barber offers some insights of the trends that were going on in the 1990s and as well as some factors that are inextricably linked to these trends. These trends, McWorld and Jihad, he described as both being undemocratic in its effects to the citizenry.
In McWorld, he talks of the “four imperatives” that govern its dynamics. Market imperative, resource imperative, information-technology imperative and ecological imperative, according to Barber, make up the working guidelines that govern the dynamics of McWorld. Personally, it may seem a bit far-reaching to talk about these imperatives verging on generalities, but then again he is trying to clarify a concept that is in operation in a big world and that because of these imperatives such a big world in ever shrinking smaller with the passing of each day.
In Jihad, he talks of the struggles of people based on ethnic, racial, cultural, and religious differences whose final aim is “to redraw boundaries… [and] escape McWorld’s dully insistent imperatives. ” At first reading, it may be quite surprising that these same reasons for which minorities struggle to be recognized within existing national boundaries are claimed to be the self-same reasons for which nations were born; nations composed of various groups of people with many differing aspects but with at least one common feature that became the focal point of their unification in the past after the break up of empires.
This initial surprise can probably be overcome if one looks at the latter concept as a case of self-determination against a colonial master and the former as a case for self-identification. For both McWorld and Jihad, Barber paints grim pictures if in case one of the two takes the upper hand over the other and it really does not matter which wins in the end for both have undemocratic tendencies. McWorld is said to offer peace and prosperity and relative unity while Jihad brings forth a sense of community, kinship and solidarity. Seemingly, the offerings to the citizenry of McWorld and Jihad are mutually exclusive.
One might not have a slice of McWorld and another slice of Jihad at the same time. McWorld hinges on interdependence while Jihad is based on exclusion. But Barber offer a middle ground for which the economic benefits of McWorld can be availed of while maintaining the exclusionist ideal of Jihad. He offers a representative confederal government as an ideal solution to address the excesses of both McWorld and Jihad; a form of “decentralized participatory democracy,” that has some elements of parochialism, communitarianism and participatory governance.
Barber argues that, after all as a tree grows from the roots going upward, democracy starts from the bottom up and not from the top going down. This view I share with Barber. People compose nations and it is essential, I believe, that the ideal principles of self-determination and government be well laid out and understood by this self-same people so as to avoid the excesses of Jihad and McWorld or at least minimize them. The discussions of Barber in Jihad Vs.
McWorld creates a dark picture that sometimes we could not easily accept that we could even dismiss it as a far-reaching generalization of the trends of the time that would eventually dissipate. But the beauty of this essay lies in the fact that it came at a time when the events that he was discussing were but recent and may have been witnessed first-hand by those among us right now. We could easily ascertain the accuracy and veracity of his claims from other resources or even from our own memories, if it is sufficient enough (i. . had we been born a few years before or within the years of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Quebecois unrest, etc. ). Furthermore, the solution that he proposes is something that is not totally radical and would pose as a mild readjustment of the current system of have now. Students of history, both those studying it in the halls of learning and those studying it in the realm of wide world, can benefit greatly from this work by Barber.
In exposing the excesses of McWorld and Jihad, he did not indulge in radical rhetoric and offered a middle ground solution that could take in the best of both worlds, so to speak. He leaves the reader the choice whether to adopt his proposal or at least gives room for others to expose a better one than his, after all this is the very essence of the democracy that he espouses. It may take time to reap the benefits of finding or adopting a middle-ground solution of Jihad and McWorld and could not be rushed. Moderation is the key and haste is an invisible wall. In the end, the tortoise has always won over the hare.
Courtney from Study Moose
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