Essays On Global Society

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While Barber is generally optimistic about the growing influence of these civic movements, he cautions against overstating their importance.

"These transnational civic projects should not fool us into thinking that Amnesty International or Medecins Sans Frontieres [Doctors Without Borders] are the equivalent in clout of AOL Time Warner or the International Monetary Fund." This is a powerful argument and one which I believe deserves greater attention, especially as a counterweight to Thomas Friedman, Samuel Huntington, Francis Fukuyama and other high-profile observers of globalization who have little, if anything, to say about the role of citizens in shaping a new borderless world for the twenty-first century.

The debate over globalization has focused to a considerable degree on political and economic forces, on the activities of governments and businesses and the dynamics of states and markets.

What tends to be overlooked in these discussions is the role of civil society — or the "third" sector — in shaping local, national and, indeed, global affairs.

In "Globalizing Democracy," Benjamin Barber argues that the debate over globalization has paid insufficient attention to the role of citizen-led groups.

"We are entering a new era," he writes, "in which global markets and servile governments will no longer be completely alone in planning the world's fate." He cites numerous examples in which citizens have reshaped public debate worldwide, including the campaign against land mines, efforts to protect dolphins from the tuna industry, and the "microcredit" movement in which small loans are made to women in developing countries to help them start businesses.

According to Barber, these sorts of movements are having a tremendous positive impact and deserve greater international attention and support.

Not only do they promise a measure of "countervailing power" in the international arena as a bulwark against reactionary movements, such as the ultra-Right wing politics of Pat Buchanan or France's Jean-Marie Le Pen, but they also embody a sort of global public opinion.

In the first, political philosopher Benjamin Barber examines the impact of global citizen movements, arguing that a new form of borderless activism is emerging today under the banner of transnational non-governmental organizations.

In the second, economist Hazel Henderson maintains that international citizen movements represent one of the most powerful and undervalued forces for social innovation today.


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