Benjamin Barber

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Benjamin Barber
Benjamin R Barber in 2010 (cropped).jpg
Barber in 2010
Born (1939-08-02)August 2, 1939
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died April 24, 2017(2017-04-24) (aged 77)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Academic
Nationality American
Genre Political theory

Benjamin R. Barber (August 2, 1939 – April 24, 2017) was an American political theorist and author, perhaps best known for his 1995 bestseller, Jihad vs. McWorld, and for 2013's If Mayors Ruled the World as well as the classic of democratic theory, 1984's Strong Democracy (revised in 2004). He became a top-level international consultant on participatory democracy as well as an adviser to Bill Clinton, Howard Dean, and Muammar Gaddafi.

Personal life[edit]

Barber was born in New York City in 1939, he was educated at Grinnell College (B.A., 1960) and Harvard University (M.A., 1963; Ph.D., 1966), after earning certificates at Albert Schweitzer College (1959) and the London School of Economics (1957).

Barber's father, Philip W. Barber, directed the New York City unit of the Federal Theatre Project, which produced plays including Macbeth and the Living Newspaper, his mother, Doris Frankel, was a playwright and wrote for television.[1] Barber was also active as a playwright, lyricist (libretto for George Quincy's opera Home and the River) and film-maker (The Struggle for Democracy, with Patrick Watson, and Music Inn, with Ben Barenholtz).

Barber died on April 24, 2017, after a four-month battle with cancer.[2][3][4]


Barber was a Senior Research Scholar at The Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society of The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, the President and Founder of the Interdependence Movement, and Walt Whitman Professor of Political Science Emeritus, Rutgers University.[5] In 2001 he joined the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland as Kekst Professor of Civil Society,[6] from 2007[7]–2012, he was a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos.

As a political theorist, Barber argued for a renewed focus on civil society and engaged citizenship as tools for building effective democracy, particularly in the post-Cold War world. His work examined the failure of nation-states to address global problems, and argued that cities and intercity associations are more effectively addressing shared concerns. Barber was a Senior Fellow at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy in 2005–2017; in February 2016, he joined the Fordham University Urban Consortium as its first Distinguished Senior Fellow[8] and announced the inaugural convening of the Global Parliament of Mayors.[9]

Barber was an outside adviser to President Bill Clinton and a foreign policy adviser to Howard Dean's 2004 Presidential campaign. He advised political parties and political leaders in the U.K., Germany, Austria, Denmark, Finland and Italy on civic education and participatory institutions.

Barber met with and worked alongside civil society and government leaders in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, China, and Moammar Gadhafi's Libya.[10][11][12]

Meaning and central thesis of Strong Democracy[edit]

In the 2004 preface to his Strong Democracy, Barber explains the central premise of that book: "Once established strongly in the political and civic realm, democracy can assure sufficient equality and justice to coexist with a variety of economic systems." He goes on to say that his goal in writing that book was not "to replace representative with strong democracy, but to thicken thin democracy with a critical overlay of participatory institutions." Barber went on to propose "a national initiative and referendum act" which would "permit Americans to petition for a legislative referendum either on popular initiatives or on laws passed by Congress."


Barber's honors included a knighthood from the French Government (Palmes Academiques/Chevalier) (2001), the Berlin Prize of the American Academy in Berlin (2001) and the John Dewey Award (2003), he was also awarded Guggenheim, Fulbright, and Social Science Research Fellowships,[13] honorary doctorates from Grinnell College, Monmouth University and Connecticut College, and held the chair of American Civilization at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris.[14]

2016 elections[edit]

In November 2016, Barber was enmeshed in controversy and accusations of racism against him after he was surreptitiously recorded at a fundraiser for North Carolina Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Deborah K. Ross by Project Veritas. In his recorded remarks, Barber compared African Americans voting for Republicans to Jews collaborating with Nazi concentration camp guards:[15][16]

[Benjamin Barber:] [Sonderkommandos were] Jewish guards who, in effect, helped murder Jews in the camps so they could live a little longer. So there were even Jews who were helping the Nazis murder Jews. So blacks who are helping the other side are seriously fucked in the head. They're only helping the enemy who want to destroy them.

When confronted about his statement by news station WRAL, he responded that the analogy to Sonderkommandos was an overstatement and not one that I would make in public[15]. The Ross campaign stated that Ross does not agree with or condone Barber's remarks and donated Barber's $200 campaign contribution to hurricane relief efforts.[15]

Barber donated $12,825 to various political campaigns between 2008 and 2016,[15] and he describes himself as an experienced fundraiser in his biography.[17]



  1. ^ Rosenfeld, Heather (November 6, 2001). "Benjamin R. Barber". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-02-14. 
  2. ^ vandenHuevel, Katrina (April 24, 2017). "Saddened to learn of Benjamin Barber's death". The Nation. Retrieved April 24, 2017. 
  3. ^ "Dr Benjamin Barber – August 2 1939 – April 24 2017". Global Parliament of Mayors. April 25, 2017. Retrieved April 25, 2017. 
  4. ^ Grimes, William (April 25, 2017). "Benjamin R. Barber, Author of 'Jihad vs. McWorld,' Dies at 77". The New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Biography". 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Statement: Benjamin Barber, a Distinguished Senior Fellow" (Press release). Demos. March 14, 2007. 
  8. ^ Urban Consortium Fellows
  9. ^ "Announcing the Inaugural Convening of the Global Parliament of Mayors"
  10. ^ "Professors Paid by Qaddafi: Providing 'Positive Public Relations'"
  11. ^ Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd, "Gadhafi paid millions to U.S. firms to polish his global image", CNN, April 6, 2011
  12. ^ "Benjamin Barber Responds"
  13. ^ "Benjamin R. Barber | European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights". Retrieved 2017-04-29. 
  14. ^ "Benjamin Barber, Fellow at Fordham Urban Consortium, Passes Away". Fordham Newsroom. Retrieved 2017-04-29. 
  15. ^ a b c d WRAL News - @NCCapitol Ross donor criticized for racially charged remarks at fundraiser, November 2, 2016
  16. ^ YouTube - Project Veritas For Action Channel Major Hillary Donor Inside Dem Fundraiser: Blacks Are “Seriously F***ed in The Head", November 2, 2016
  17. ^ Benjamin R. Barber. Biography: Political Theorist and Founder of the Global Parliament of Mayors.

Further reading[edit]

  • Saward, Michael (2012), "A conversation with Benjamin Barber.", in Browning, Gary; Dimova-Cookson, Maria; Prokhovnik, Raia, Dialogues with contemporary political theorists, Houndsmill, Basingstoke, Hampshire New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 24–41, ISBN 9780230303058 

External links[edit]