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 Barber in this highly provocative and original book, is yes. Cities and the mayors who run them can do and are doing a better job.
Barber cites the unique qualities cities worldwide share: Pragmatism, civic trust, participation, indifference to borders and sovereignty, and a democratic penchant for networking, creativity, innovation, and cooperation. He demonstrates how city mayors, singly and jointly, are responding to transnational problems more effectively than nation-states mired in ideological infighting and sovereign rivalries. Featuring profiles of a dozen mayors around the world—courageous, eccentric, or both at once—If Mayors Ruled the World presents a compelling new vision of governance for the coming century. Barber makes a persuasive case that the city is democracy’s best hope in a globalizing world, and great mayors are already proving that this is so.
©2013 Benjamin R. Barber (P)2014 Audible Inc.
I liked the ideas. The book gets a little redundant at times. I would love to see the parliament of mayors idea that he proposes.
I bought this audiobook on the strength of a talk Benjamin Barber gave at the Long Now Foundation. There are two reasons why it wasn't my best Audible purchase ever.
First, Barber's main ideas and key recommendations are covered in his public talks and in the book's introduction, and the rest of the book is fairly repetitive. It's also written in an abstract style that I found hard to follow.
Second, the narrator, Jeremy Gage, didn't fill me with confidence that he really understood what he was reading (possibly because of the abstract language), so this wasn't the intellectually stimulating non-fiction listen I was hoping for. It can't be easy to make this kind of material interesting to listen to, but understanding the author's meaning in every paragraph would be a starting point.
However, as an urban policy wonk and city-dweller, I found the book's central ideas thought-provoking: that mayors are uniquely powerful in today's world; that they can and should take actions within their cities that flout or bypass state/national bureaucracies; and that because they're free to disregard borders and state sovereignty, they can join forces to leverage the enormous power of cities, notably in slowing climate change, whether nations can act or not.
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