A Passion for Democracy: American Essays

A Passion for Democracy: American Essays

by Benjamin R. Barber


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691050249
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 04/02/2000
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 7.75(w) x 10.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Benjamin R. Barber is Whitman Professor of Political Science and Director of the Walt Whitman Center for the Culture and Politics of Democracy at Rutgers University. Among his many books are The Conquest of Politics (Princeton), which collects his philosophical essays, An Aristocracy of Everyone, and Jihad vs. McWorld.

Table of Contents



Pt. I American Theory: Democracy, Liberalism, and Rights

Ch. 1 Liberal Democracy and the Costs of Consent

Ch. 2 Foundationalism and Democracy

Ch. 3 Why Democracy Must Be Liberal: An Epitaph for Marxism

Ch. 4 The Compromised Republic: Public Purposelessness in America

Ch. 5 The Rights of We the People Are All the Rights There Are

Ch. 6 Have Rights Gone Wrong? The Reconstruction of Rights

Pt. II American Practice: Leadership, Citizenship, and Censorship

Ch. 7 Neither Leaders nor Followers: Citizenship under Strong Democracy

Ch. 8 Command Performance: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

Ch. 9 The Undemocratic Party System: Citizenship in an Elite/Mass Society

Ch. 10 One Nation Indivisible or a Compact of Sovereign States? The Two Faces of Federalism

Ch. 11 The Market as Censor in a World of Consumer Totalism

Pt. III Education for Democracy: Civic Education, Service, and Citizenship

Ch. 12 Thomas Jefferson and the Education of the Citizen

Ch. 13 The Civic Mission of the University

Ch. 14 Service, Citizenship, and Democracy: Civic Duty as an Entailment of Civil Right

Ch. 15 Cultural Conservatism and Democratic Education: Lessons from the Sixties

Ch. 16 America Skips School: Why We Talk So Much about Education and Do So Little

Ch. 17 Education for Democracy

Pt. IV Democracy and Technology: Endless Frontier or End of Democracy?

Ch. 18 The Second American Revolution

Ch. 19 Pangloss, Pandora, or Jefferson? Three Scenarios for the Future of Technology and Democracy

Ch. 20 The New Telecommunications Technology: Endless Frontier or the End of Democracy?


What People are Saying About This

William Galston

If I were to put together a short list of a dozen scholars who might...contribute to the rhetoric and thought of a presidency, I would put Ben Barber on the list.

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A Passion for Democracy - American Essays 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.