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IF MAYORS RULED THE WORLD by Benjamin R. Barber Kirkus Star


Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities

By Benjamin R. Barber

Pub Date: Nov. 5th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-300-16467-1
Publisher: Yale Univ.

Political theorist Barber (Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York; Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole, 2007, etc.) asks whether the world's cities, and the mayors who lead them, can come together as an alternative to the failures of the nation-state.

The author not only provides a positive answer, he also discusses how cities and their mayors have already collaborated for a variety of purposes and assesses the characteristics that make leagues or confederations of cities potentially viable as broader networks. Barber has no patience for the successors of Rousseau or Thomas Hardy whose “pastoral nostalgia leads them to curse the wickedness of cities.” He contends that cities can provide a framework for a globalization that is “public rather than private, democratic not hegemonic, egalitarian rather than monopolistic.” A parliament of cities is already emerging. In his view, the nation-state is incapable of cooperating on global issues with other states, since global cooperation violates the institutional foundation of nations. Citing historical precedents like the Hanseatic League, among others, Barber insists that local consensual problem-solving is a characteristic of mayoral offices and “seem[s] to override deficiencies in political landscape.” The author reviews areas like security, the environment and global warming, and standard setting for service provisions to illustrate the many different ways in which the world's cities are coming together, and he features a multitude of organizations that have already been formed. Leaders who have stepped forward include New York's mayor Michael Bloomberg, Stuttgart, Germany’s former mayor Wolfgang Schuster and the mayor/president of Singapore Tony Tan.

A provocative, informative account of a different kind of globalization. Highly recommended reading for policymakers and other readers intrigued by forward-thinking forms of governance.