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If Mayors Ruled the World

If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    If Mayors Ruled the World
    Book Description:

    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 Worldpresents 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16483-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)

    • CHAPTER 1. IF MAYORS RULED THE WORLD Why They Should and How They Already Do
      (pp. 3-28)

      In a teeming world of too much difference and too little solidarity, democracy is in deep crisis. With obstreperous nation-states that once rescued democracy from problems of scale now thwarting democracy’s globalization, it is time to ask in earnest, “Can cities save the world?”¹ I believe they can. In this book I will show why they should and how they already do.

      We have come full circle in the city’s epic history. Humankind began its march to politics and civilization in the polis—the township. It was democracy’s original incubator. But for millennia, we relied on monarchy and empire and...

    • CHAPTER 2. THE LAND OF LOST CONTENT Virtue and Vice in the Life of the City
      (pp. 29-52)

      To comprehend what is won in the long journey of humankind to the city, we begin with what has been lost. It is still there, palpable if not fully recoverable, in the idyll that continues to haunt modern urban memory, a nostalgic naturalist daydream drawn from some farm girl’s remembered childhood: family hearth in winter, rustling cornfields on an August afternoon, wide-open skies all year-round. The affecting poetry of loss emanating from A. E. Housman’s lament for a “land of lost content” echoes in the anxieties of ambivalent urbanites in cities across the world. It glows on television in the...

    • CHAPTER 3. THE CITY AND DEMOCRACY From Independent Polis to Interdependent Cosmopolis
      (pp. 53-82)

      The story of cities is the story of democracy. To retell the city’s history, from polis to megaregion, is also to tell the story of the civic from citizenship to civilization. Urban life entails common living; common living means common willing and common law making, and these define the essence of political democracy. Democracy, however, is more than political. As John Dewey insisted, it is a way of life. In Walt Whitman’s provocative challenge, democracy must be made manifest in “the highest forms of interrelation between men, and their beliefs—in literature, colleges and schools—democracy in all public and...

    • CHAPTER 4. MAYORS RULE! Is This What Democracy Looks Like?
      (pp. 83-105)

      Mayors rule. Or do they? Neither John Lindsay nor Lyndon Johnson seems to have thought so. Lindsay was actually New York’s mayor and got bitten more than most. Mayors may think they have the best job in the world, as Michael Bloomberg of New York likes to say and Mayor Rafał Dutkiewicz of Wrocław, Poland, agrees, and as Harvard with its cheery “welcome to the best job in the world” insists. But in a number of countries, mayors aren’t even directly elected by city burghers. Instead, they are appointed by party or state authorities (in many cities in France and...

    • CHAPTER 5. INTERDEPENDENT CITIES Local Nodes and Global Synapses
      (pp. 106-144)

      Cities once favored walls, but even when under siege, never allowed themselves to be defined by borders. Their natural tendency is to connect, interact, and network. This interdependence is crucial to what makes an urban community a city. The city’s interdependence can even undermine national solidarities, as the Belgian sociologist Eric Corijn has emphasized. In the name of cultivating mutual ties, cities are prone to betray the nation-states whose laws and power they normally honor. At times of crisis, they can become literal traitors to their sovereign overseers.

      In the financial crisis of the seventies, Washington turned its back on...

    • CHAPTER 6. CITIES WITHOUT SOVEREIGNTY The Uses of Powerlessness
      (pp. 145-174)

      When the governments of nation-states tell their cities to back off—“Ford to New York: drop dead!” screamed theNew York Postin 1976—you might think the matter would be settled.¹ Not anymore. With his “own army,” Mayor Bloomberg of New York declared recently, not only does he not “listen to Washington very much,” but he has his own foreign policy and global network through which he can solve problems as he will. After President Obama was thwarted by Congress in his effort to fund a port improvement, Mayor Villaraigosa of Los Angeles in effect began conducting his own...


    • CHAPTER 7. “PLANET OF SLUMS” The Challenge of Urban Inequality
      (pp. 177-212)

      No one need tell the billion poor people living in the more than 200,000 urban slums around the world that rapid urbanization has not been an unmitigated good.¹ How are the poor to respond to its supposed democratic and global promise when the city does little more than “incarcerate the underprivileged and further marginalizes them in relation to the broader society,” in relation, that is to say, to the middle and upper classes to whom so many of the celebrated advantages of urban life seem to accrue?²

      The critics of cities featured in Chapter 2 were not nostalgic country boys....

    • CHAPTER 8. CITY, CURE THYSELF! Mitigating Inequality
      (pp. 213-240)

      Inequality and injustice appear as intractable features of the city because they are endemic to its urban character—its density, its topographical and demographic inclination to segregation, its “natural” ghettos, its susceptibility to economic stratification. This is cause for deep pessimism. But the sources of mitigation and amelioration, I will argue here, are also endemic to the city, and this offers grounds for hope. As Jane Jacobs says, “cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration.” Inequality can be addressed by such urban characteristics as mobility, creativity, and innovation. Richard Florida has been arguing for some time that “urban centers...

    • CHAPTER 9. SMART CITIES IN A VIRTUAL WORLD Linking Cities with Digital Technology
      (pp. 241-270)

      A host of enthusiasts, from the early pioneers ofWired Magazineand the Electronic Frontier Foundation to the newest innovators of City Protocol (the new web-based global cities network in Barcelona), are persuaded that digitally linked, so-called smart cities are on the cutting edge of urban innovation. In keeping with the soft technological determinism of Google founder Eric Schmidt and his ideas director Jared Cohen (a political scientist), many observers are sure that “the new digital age” is “reshaping the future of people, nations and business.”¹ Integral to this idea of a digital world is the notion of smart cities,...

      (pp. 271-298)

      Culture defines the city and is critical to urban interdependence and to the democratic imagination. Some even insist that to speak of artandthe city is redundant. Quite simply, artisthe city. The city is culture and, as the architect Javier Nieto has declared, “will be culture.” Urban space is free public space that facilitates public communication, civic imagination, and intercity cultural exchange. Creativity, imagination, collaboration, communication, and interdependence are essential constituents of what we mean when we speak of both the urban and the cultural, of both democracy and the arts.

      Inasmuch as we can speak of...

    • CHAPTER 11. CITIZENS WITHOUT BORDERS Glocal Civil Society and Confederalism
      (pp. 299-335)

      Our aim has been to show why mayors can and should rule the world, if ever so softly. To speak of “rule” or “governance” (a soft synonym for government) is to focus on the mechanics and institutions of the political order. Hence, in the next and final chapter, I will offer a political argument for a global parliament of mayors and lay out some guidelines for how it might be organized and what it might do. I have always believed, however, that the political is grounded in the civic, that democratic governance whether local or global must first find its...

    • CHAPTER 12. A GLOBAL PARLIAMENT OF MAYORS Bottom-up Democracy and the Road to Interdependence
      (pp. 336-360)

      Every argument offered in this book has pointed to a pressing need for global governance with both a democratic and a local face. And every description of extant and working intercity networks suggests we are already well down the road to this desired world of interconnected cities and citizens without borders. What is left to do is to take the small but critical step of convening a global parliament of mayors. The very hint of such a thing will elicit the usual cries: a bridge too far! too radical! too utopian! Yet the proposal that follows does little more than...

  6. NOTES
    (pp. 361-402)
  7. INDEX
    (pp. 403-416)