Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Read This: Jihad vs. McWorld

Since the terrorist acts that marked September 11, 2001, much of American’s foreign policy has focused on how to deal with the global issue of terrorism. Outside of America, this is a topic that hits close to home for many people from the old frontiers of East Europe, the new frontiers of the Middle East, or the dynamic frontiers of Africa. At the same time, many countries internal policies have focused on the restructuring of failing economies or the patching of ailing ones with the free market acting as a blueprint for these innovations. Benjamin Barber shows in Jihad vs. McWorld that these two issues, international terrorism and intranational economics, are intimately connected. He also shows that both are undermining the force of democracy in modern nation-states.

Barber discusses the two forces that have come to dominate our globalized and globalizing world: transnational, uncontrolled free markets, represented by corporations such as McDonalds, Coca-Cola, and Wal-Mart, whom Barber labels “McWorld”; and parochial, violent, ethnic-based tribalism that opposes these markets, represented by such groups as Al-Queda and ISIS, which Barber labels with the general term “Jihad.”

This is a complicated book, but well worth the read. Barber provides a detailed analysis of these two global forces, how they have formed, and how they affect the modern nation-state and global democracy. Barber does not take political sides. He approaches his analysis as neither a conservative nor a liberal, neither Republican nor Democrat. Instead, he strives to be as objective as possible, admitting where his own knowledge or authority is lacking.

Though written in 1996, Barber’s book offers an in-depth, penetrating look at the forces of unregulated free markets and ethnic-based tribalism that are coming to define our modern era. If you are interested in a political discussion not based around American party lines but straight forward enough for even the lay man to understand, this is the book for you.

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