cj#417> Review: Jihad vs. McWorld


Richard Moore

Date: Wed, 17 Jan 1996
Sender: •••@••.•••


I would like to share with you a book I recently read that deals with some of
the issues I have been seeing in the discussions. It is an interesting book
that examines some of the trends in international relations. Although I
disagree with some of it, the author makes a good attempt at identifying how
some of the conflicting international forces are effecting democracy (see


Jihad vs. McWorld
Benjamin R. Barber
(1995@Random House, Inc.)

Barber tries to develop a correlation between two worlds -- consumerist
capitalism and tribal/religious fundamentalism -- and attempts to show that
both worlds distaste democracy.  He develops his argument throughout his
book by making subtle points reflecting his view of human and nation-state
behavior.  Barber sees the world as increasingly riven by fratricide, civil
war, and the breakup of nations.

Barber paints two scenarios.  The first, McWorld, depicts the future as an
increasing onrush of economic, technological, and corporate forces that
demand integration and uniformity.  This force mesmorizes people with
elements like fast food, computers and music.  This world is moving us into
one commercially homogenous society, a society tied together by
communications, information, entertainment, and commerce.

The secord world, Jihad, shows the prospect of a retribalization of large
parts of humanity by war and bloodshed, a threatened balkanization of
nation-states in which culture is pitted against culture.  This Jihad is
motivated by hundreds of narrowly conceived faiths against every kind of
interdependence, every kind of social cooperation and mutuality, against
technology, against pop culture, against integrated markets, and against
modernity itself.

But both worlds cannot do without the other. McWorld cannot do without
Jihad because it needs cultural parochialism to feed its endless appetites.
Jihad cannot do without McWorld for where would culture be without the
commercial producers who market it and the information and communication
systems that make it known.

Barber defines Jihad as the following:  ...is an attempt to recapture a
world that existed prior to cosmopolitan capitalism and was defined by
religious mysteries, hierarchical communities, spellbinding traditions, and
historical torpor. As such, they may appear to be directly adversarial to
the forces of McWorld. Yet Jihad stands not so much in stark opposition as
in subtle counterpoint to McWorld and is itself a dialectical response to
modernity whose features both reflect and reinforce the modern world's
virtues and vices -- Jihad via McWorld rather than Jihad versus McWorld."

One critical question Barber addresses is whether postmodern "new"
nationalism, with the nation-state as its target, is assimilable to
traditional nationalism, on which the nation-state was founded. His
response is dialectical.  "Nationalism clearly has now and perhaps always
had two moments:  one of group identity and exclusion but another, equally
important, of integration and inclusion. Today's "nationalists" boast about
their deconstructive potential and revel in hostility to the state and
other constituencies that make up the state.  In its early modern
manifestation, however, nationalism permitted Europe to emerge from
feudalism and facilitated the architecture of the nation-state."

Barber's conclusion suggests that neither Jihad and McWorld promises a
remotely democratic future. The consequences of the dialectical interaction
between them suggest new and startling forms of inadvertent tyranny that
range from an invisibly constraining consumerism to an all too palpable
barbarism.  The market's invisible hand is attached to a manipulative arm
that, unguided by a sovereign head, is left to the continguencies of
spontaneous greed. Tyranny here is indirect, often even friendly.

In reference to Russia, Jihad neither generates its own democracy nor
permits others to democractize it merely by importing the constitutional
mechanisms devised by others over many centuries in nation-states with
long-standing  and historically well-developed civil societies.  It tends
to undermine the fledgling institutions of the young civil society of
Russia is nurturing.rist capitalism and tribal/religious fundamentalism --
and attempts to show that both worlds distaste democracy.  He depicts the
future as an increasing onrush of economic, technological, and corporate
forces that demand integration.


        An interesting level of discussion.  He is clearly right that
there's presently a symbiosis between the NWO and Fundamentalism -- but I
question over-emphasizing that as being a major historical pattern.

        Keep in mind that fundamentalism & terrorism have come forward as
major global issues only after the Cold War began winding down.  There's
considerable evidence to suggest much of the fracas has been manufactured
as a way to justify continuation of the military/imperialist infratructure.
After all, it was the U.S. (with help from France) that orchestrated the
Ayotolla taking power in Iran, after the Shah was no longer tenable, and
there arose a threat of a republican (and socialist oriented) government.
And we now know that many of the terrorist organizations have been funded
by the CIA (to "keep tabs" on them!).  Finally, the media hype re/terrorism
has been out of all proportion to the amount of terrorism that actually
occurs, keeping the public fear-level high.

         From the review, it would seem Barber doesn't address the question
of what forms of social organization _do_ have a taste for democracy.
That's quite acceptable for his book, but for for me the discussion doesn't
get to the "interesting part".  Perhaps someone could name some titles
which address democratic societal paradigms.



 Posted by Richard K. Moore (•••@••.•••) Wexford, Ireland
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