In this book, Benjamin Barber describes two tendencies in
the modern world. "Jihad" is the name he uses to include religious
fundamentalism of all kinds, plus various types of politics with a nationalist
or tribalist element. "McWorld" is the name he uses for the global
consumerist culture dominated by transnational corporations and distributed by
Barber first describes both Jihad and McWorld separately,
and then discusses their interaction with each other, using examples such as
the changes in the former Eastern Bloc countries.
- "Jihad" emphasises loyalty to one's nation, clan,
tribe or religious group. It engenders a sense of belonging, offering an
antidote to the rootlessness of global McWorld culture. However, Jihad also
uses elements of McWorld: for example, fascist rock bands.
- "McWorld" manufactures needs to sell products
and services globally. It replaces ideology by the "videology" of the
"infotainment telesector", the mass media whose ownership is becoming
more and more concentrated via mergers. McWorld also uses elements of Jihad -
for example, gangsta rap.
- Both Jihad and McWorld represent threats to democracy:
Jihad with its strong leaders demanding total loyalty from fanatical
foot-soldiers, and McWorld where the market is everything and citizens are
reduced to passive consumers.
- To counter these threats we must re-build active
citizenship and civic society. We can perhaps use some of McWorld's
technologies such as the Internet to create new international democratic
organs, such as networks of NGOs and link-ups between local communities in
different parts of the world.
It must be emphasised that Barberís book was published five
years before the events of September 11, 2001. Indeed, it was based on an essay in The Atlantic Monthly published in March