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Newark Star-LedgerEnlightening.... Politicians and history teachers, citizens even, would be wise to pick up this collection.
— Kathleen Daley
Benjamin Barber is one of America's preeminent political theorists. He has been a significant voice in the continuing debate about the nature and role of democracy in the contemporary world. A Passion for Democracy collects twenty of his most important writings on American democracy. Together they refine his distinctive position in democratic theory. Barber's conception of "strong democracy" contrasts with traditional concepts of "liberal democracy," especially in its emphasis on citizen participation in central ...
Benjamin Barber is one of America's preeminent political theorists. He has been a significant voice in the continuing debate about the nature and role of democracy in the contemporary world. A Passion for Democracy collects twenty of his most important writings on American democracy. Together they refine his distinctive position in democratic theory. Barber's conception of "strong democracy" contrasts with traditional concepts of "liberal democracy," especially in its emphasis on citizen participation in central issues of public debate. These essays critique the "thin representation" of liberal democracy and buttress the arguments presented in Barber's twelve books, most recently in his well-received Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Re-shaping the World. In these pieces, Barber argues for participatory democracy without dependence on abstract metaphysical foundations, and he stresses the relationship among democracy and civil society, civic education, and culture.
A Passion for Democracy is divided into four sections. In the first, "American Theory: Democracy, Liberalism, and Rights," Barber addresses issues of ongoing relevance to today's debates about the roots of participatory democracy, including individualism vs. community, the importance of consent, and the irrelevance of Marxism. Essays in the second section, "American Practice: Leadership, Citizenship, and Censorship" provide a "strong democracy" critique of American democratic practice. "Education for Democracy: Civic Education, Service, and Citizenship" applies Barber's theories to three related topics and includes his much-discussed essay "America Skips School." The final section, "Democracy and Technology: Endless Frontier or End of Democracy?" provides glimpses into a future that technology alone cannot secure for democracy.
In his preface, Barber writes: "In these essays ... I have been hard on my country. Like most ardent democrats, I want more for it than it has achieved, despite the fact that it has achieved more than most people have dared to want." This wide-ranging collection displays not only his passion for democracy, but also his unique perspective on issues of abiding importance for the democratic process.
"Overall, the work is typical Barber: well written, conceptually fascinating, and astutely relevant."--Choice
"Enlightening.... Politicians and history teachers, citizens even, would be wise to pick up this collection."--Kathleen Daley, Newark Star-Ledger
"The essays in A Passion for Democracy offer nuggets of keen historical insight and every so often connect with a sharp dart to the complacent regions of liberal capitalism. . . . It doesn't hurt that, in an arena in which turgid, jargon-ridden prose is the rule, Barber can spin a phrase with the dexterity of Derek Jeter turning a double-play at second base."--Loren Lomasky, Reason
|Pt. I||American Theory: Democracy, Liberalism, and Rights|
|Ch. 1||Liberal Democracy and the Costs of Consent||3|
|Ch. 2||Foundationalism and Democracy||19|
|Ch. 3||Why Democracy Must Be Liberal: An Epitaph for Marxism||31|
|Ch. 4||The Compromised Republic: Public Purposelessness in America||41|
|Ch. 5||The Rights of We the People Are All the Rights There Are||60|
|Ch. 6||Have Rights Gone Wrong? The Reconstruction of Rights||79|
|Pt. II||American Practice: Leadership, Citizenship, and Censorship|
|Ch. 7||Neither Leaders nor Followers: Citizenship under Strong Democracy||95|
|Ch. 8||Command Performance: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?||111|
|Ch. 9||The Undemocratic Party System: Citizenship in an Elite/Mass Society||119|
|Ch. 10||One Nation Indivisible or a Compact of Sovereign States? The Two Faces of Federalism||134|
|Ch. 11||The Market as Censor in a World of Consumer Totalism||143|
|Pt. III||Education for Democracy: Civic Education, Service, and Citizenship|
|Ch. 12||Thomas Jefferson and the Education of the Citizen||161|
|Ch. 13||The Civic Mission of the University||178|
|Ch. 14||Service, Citizenship, and Democracy: Civic Duty as an Entailment of Civil Right||187|
|Ch. 15||Cultural Conservatism and Democratic Education: Lessons from the Sixties||203|
|Ch. 16||America Skips School: Why We Talk So Much about Education and Do So Little||214|
|Ch. 17||Education for Democracy||225|
|Pt. IV||Democracy and Technology: Endless Frontier or End of Democracy?|
|Ch. 18||The Second American Revolution||237|
|Ch. 19||Pangloss, Pandora, or Jefferson? Three Scenarios for the Future of Technology and Democracy||245|
|Ch. 20||The New Telecommunications Technology: Endless Frontier or the End of Democracy?||258|
Posted August 3, 2004
I saw Benjamin Barber on PBS late July 2004, and checked out this book from the local library. One essay alone, 'Civic Mission of the University' should be required reading for anyone involved in education. Barber's prose is dense and not an easy read for people accustomed to lesser scribes, but every word counts, and he writes with dry humor throughout; I laughed as he enlightened me. It may require slow, thorough re-readings to absorb the entire content, very much like Robert Pirsig's 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance', which is the closest thing I can think of to compare it to. Pirsig's book explores the self, and Barber does the same for society. One chapter alone justifies buying the whole book, but after that there's a lot more. I ordered a copy so I could take the time it requires.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.