|Born||August 2, 1939|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||April 24, 2017 (aged 77)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Harvard University|
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.
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. 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 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. In 2001 he joined the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland as Kekst Professor of Civil Society. From 2007-2012, 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 and announced the inaugural convening of the Global Parliament of Mayors.
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 UK, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Finland and Italy on civic education and participatory institutions.
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, 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.
In November 2016, Barber was falsely cited as a "major Hillary donor" and recorded expressing his opinion that black voters who vote for Republicans are voting against their own interests, in an undercover video produced by the activist group Project Veritas earlier in the year. Project Veritas has been criticized by mainstream media sources for misleading audiences, splicing video footage, entrapping people, lying, fraud etc.
When confronted about his remarks by news station WRAL, Barber responded that the analogy to Sonderkommandos "was an overstatement and not one that I would make in public. I stand by the basic view that people of color - Latinos and African-Americans and others - who are voting for Trump are voting in total disregard of their own long-range interests and in total obliviousness to everything that Trump has said about Latinos, about immigrants, about African-Americans, his own racist record."