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If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities

3.18 of 5 stars 3.18  ·  rating details  ·  73 ratings  ·  10 reviews
In the face of the most perilous challenges of our time—climate change, terrorism, poverty, and trafficking of drugs, guns, and people—the nations of the world seem paralyzed.The problems are too big, too interdependent,too divisive for the nation-state. Is the nation-state, once democracy's best hope, today democratically dysfunctional? Obsolete? The answer, says Benjamin ...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Yale University Press (first published October 31st 2013)
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Kressel Housman
Bah! First abandoned book of the year! I first heard of it on the Freakonmics Radio Podcast, and I was intrigued by the thesis: that mayors accomplish much more than heads of nations because they deal with the practical realities of day-to-day living. Reality forces them to put ideologies aside. The book follows the format of one chapter outlining the author's ideas and then a profile of a mayor. Parts of the first chapter was tough to get through because much of it was theoretical and academic, ...more
Russell Fox
If there is anything Benjamin Barber is, it is a booster: a booster of ideas, of concepts, particularly any idea or concept which he can present as new or revelatory or world-historical in some not-really-Hegelian-but-only-because-he-insists-its-the-dawn-not-twilight sort of way. I suppose that comes off as terribly backhanded compliment, and I'm not sure I want to apologize for that. Barber is, by any measure, a truly brilliant and expansive thinker, someone constantly making insightful connect ...more
Interesting ideas but, based on the situations in cities where Barber advocates currently run the show, (such as NYC), one sees the ideas having difficulty being translated into reality.
Julian Haigh
Rather wordy survey of the place of cities in development and the important place they may provide in overcoming the limits of Westphalian sovereignty. The profiles of 6 world-class mayors was a nice addition. Over and again, Barber emphasizes that the decentralized, and cooperative focus of city governance places it perfectly to overcome some of the world's most intractable problems like global warming. If you're interested it's worth a quick look over but the intellectual level seems more chal ...more
Kyle Bell
Barber has an odd fascination with Michael Bloomberg, yet sees cities as the key to democratic participation in the 21st century. The disconnect between the flourishing prose and his preferred leadership style / governing coalition of business elites -- which are wholly unresponsive to the general public -- makes the book untenable.
Nicholas Aune
An interesting argument for the logic that all politics are local.

Barber examines major cities and shows that the mayors of those cities have more clout for real policy change than state, federal or regional governments, lobbyists, and non profit. Barber argues that real change can be accomplished by local power.
Great topic as cities are gaining power while the world urbanizes and nation states start to lose their relevance in an increasingly connected world. I liked the idea of a world congress of mayors and think this will the basics are in place now. That said I found Benjamin Barber difficult to read - the same problem with Jihad vs. McWorld.
An interesting discussion about bottom-up management of territories. A bit academic, with its written and argumentative structure, but well-informative of why cities may best manage citizens than statehoods or nations.
I'd actually like to give this book 2.5 stars but was feeling generous. This book is not very organized and repeats itself often. The most interesting part of the book is actually the mayor profiles he does for various cities.

It feels like he sort of half researched his topic and tried to finish it with a rally, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. I'd only read this if you're really into politics, and even then feel free to skim.
Alex Csicsek
A confused discussion about the importance of cities in the era of globalisation concludes with a call for some sort of ill-defined UN-esque network of cities.

The only chapter I enjoyed reading was The Land of Lost Content: Virtue and Vice in the Life of the City, which explored perceptions and characterisations of the urban throughout human history.
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American political theorist perhaps best known for his 1996 bestseller, Jihad vs. McWorld.
More about Benjamin R. Barber...
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