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If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities

3.03  ·  Rating Details ·  154 Ratings  ·  23 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 Benjam ...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Yale University Press (first published October 31st 2013)
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Kressel Housman
Apr 24, 2014 Kressel Housman rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
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
Danial Shuhaizan
Aug 11, 2014 Danial Shuhaizan rated it did not like it
I bought the book thinking that the thesis was interesting and although I still do believe it, Barber does a bad job in presenting this message out in his book. The few pros I could give is an interesting thesis with good explanations with evidence backing his analysis but this an exception not the rule.

The one star rating is due to the repetitive, banal contents of the book and how he expands the subject he's explaining (that does not add much to the point he is making). Also, some parts of hi
Dec 17, 2016 Art rated it really liked it
Shelves: cities, read-in-2016
Uneven. Intriguing notion, but here it seems life a forced stretch of a concept. This book offers much to celebrate about cities working together and leading the way, but mayors will not rule the world anytime soon. Taken as a what-if, however, it is fun to imagine a world led by can-do mayors who get practical things done.

Inauguration Day lingers in a few days when a new kind of era will begin under a humorless bully of a plutocrat without experience as an officeholder who creates chaos, who i
Jan 18, 2015 Nichevo rated it did not like it
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.
Przemysław Garczyński (
Bardzo nietypowa wizja polityczna, której - po lekturze - jak najbardziej kibicuję!
Jan 02, 2017 Iana rated it liked it
Well. Barber generally has a good thesis and good ideas and examples of how politics in cities tends to be more pragmatic and collaborative than at nation state level. The book, though, makes for a messy repetitive read interspersed with considerations that sometimes stray away too much from the topic of the book (there's a chapter on culture that is unbearable). And his idea of a parliament of mayors is hopelessly fluffy in a world where realpolitik and hard power seem to matter more than ever. ...more
Kayla O'Regan
Mar 28, 2016 Kayla O'Regan rated it it was ok
I came to this book with high hopes, as municipal government is one of my passions and my biggest dream is to be mayor of my hometown (don't laugh). Yet a lot of this book is premised on the ideal that states are no longer capable of conducting policy, and that cities can do it much better-- and while I do agree that there are some areas in which local government is much more effective than national, I suppose I have not completely given up on the state.

The whole idea of "mayors ruling the worl
Florian Bieber
May 01, 2015 Florian Bieber rated it it was ok
The idea is good and the point about mayors getting things done is a nice story, but the book is repetitive and bloated. Furthermore, the author is not sufficiently critical of authoritarian practicies (i.e. Singapur) and in his "post-ideological" getting things done approach, democracy, accountability seems to matter less. He also ignores the problems of transferring this larger scale. The reason mayors can get more things done is often because they operate within states that set laws and have ...more
Charles Denison iv
Jan 20, 2015 Charles Denison iv rated it liked it
Many interesting observations about how Mayors are more effective at solving society's common issues than politicians at the state or national levels. They are forced to deal with the day to day realities of life and therefore must come up with solutions. In addition, unlike state and national leaders, they are free to work together with each other since they are not bound by issues regarding state and national sovereignty. I agree with the book's premise, however the book was far too long. I en ...more
Julian Haigh
Mar 15, 2014 Julian Haigh rated it liked it
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
Nov 28, 2013 Kirsten rated it liked it
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
Nov 21, 2013 Alex Csicsek rated it it was ok
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.
David Carrasquillo
Very interesting and complete book full of useful experiences and arguments, but it seems to me that it is not critical enough of its core concepts. I guess it was always thought as a practical guide and it surrendered to develop anything that distanced itself from concrete recommendations. Not necessarily a bad thing, I just think that feels like something incomplete.
Hakan Jackson
Oct 15, 2016 Hakan Jackson rated it did not like it
The information in this book is simply unorganized. It's as if the author pieced together a lot of his articles and was unable to get them to properly flow together. He skips around chronologically, geographically as well as argumentatively. The author seems to be real knowledgeable, I just wish the knowledge was organized.
Apr 08, 2014 Blair rated it liked it
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.
Nicholas Aune
Jun 29, 2015 Nicholas Aune rated it liked it
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.
Kyle Bell
May 15, 2014 Kyle Bell rated it it was ok
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.
Mar 25, 2016 Thomas rated it liked it
The first six chapters and twelfth and last chapter are interesting, four stars for those. The chapters in between tend to be repetitive, too long and too vague to be of any use, so two stars for those chapters.
Nov 27, 2016 Joe rated it liked it
Interesting concept, poorly executed- Liked it for its analysis of city governance vs nation governance but there is little written about actual solutions- the last chapter should have been expanded to be the entirety of part 2 and gone into more detail.
Jan 14, 2014 Alex rated it really liked it
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.
Josh Charvat
Jun 14, 2016 Josh Charvat rated it it was ok
I did not find the author's arguments convincing. In addition I felt that the author did not devote enough time to defending his argument against counterpoints.
David Mayhem
David Mayhem rated it liked it
Nov 17, 2015
Jamie Trie
Jamie Trie rated it really liked it
Oct 23, 2016
Grace Simrall
Grace Simrall rated it it was ok
Oct 07, 2016
Jakub rated it did not like it
Feb 13, 2017
Roxanne Serrano
Roxanne Serrano rated it liked it
Dec 01, 2015
Michael rated it it was ok
Jan 29, 2017
Silvia rated it it was amazing
Jan 28, 2015
Astih rated it it was ok
Aug 28, 2016
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American political theorist perhaps best known for his 1996 bestseller, Jihad vs. McWorld.
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