Political scientist Barber (Rutgers; An Aristocracy of Everyone, 1992, etc.) grandly divides the planet into no more and no less than two camps to explain the present universal, sorry mess. The only hope, he says, is democracy, and between the equally malign forces of Jihad and McWorld, the odds for it aren't too good. According to the professor's realpolitik, McWorld means not merely worldwide fast food but all capitalist buccaneering, global marketeering, cyberspace, megamergers, and international corporate incest aimed at nothing but profit. The Japanese motor in your Swiss camera might be made in China and sold by a British ad agency. Borders mean nothing in McWorld; the sun never sets on its flag. Movies, TV, and theme parks like EuroDisney and the local mall are all. Fighting for hegemony, probably without ultimate success according to Barber, is international Jihad. By Jihad he means not merely Hamas or Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. Add neo-Nazis, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, unregulated militia members, and the balkanization of the Balkans. Fundamentalism and nationalism, often drawing sustenanance from imaginary history, are in impassioned battle with infotainment and merchandising. The struggle is not impeded by any government or international agreement. Earth looks like a political Rubik's cube. Jihad receives bomb-making instructions on the Internet. McWorld sells designer jeans to Palestinian and Israeli alike. The paradox hardly enhances the freedom of the individual, and democracy suffers under either banner. And yet, declares Barber, democracy is our only viable choice. The bifurcation of the global village may seem simplistic, but assuredly the dialectic is not. The author's range is, perforce, universal. Certainly he is no optimistic Toffler, Fukuyama, or Pangloss. His concern for the public weal is patent; his impassioned argument is provocative and portentous. This is a generally erudite, copiously detailed synthesis, a polemic long on problems and short on solutions. It's not fast-food reading; it's serious food for thought.