I first ran across If Mayors Ruled the World after listening to the author Benjamin Barber talk on the Seminars About Long Term thinking podcast. It was a fascinating listen, one that captured my imagination as a future form of global governance built around cities and their personalities embodied in the mayoral leaders. My enduring memory of the talk was it’s optimism. Barber seemed to genuinely believe that a connected network of cities could help the world come together in a pragmatic and still democratic way, whilst side-stepping the paralysis and nationalistic chest-thumping that seems so prevalent today.
The talk was given prior to the books publication, and the reviews following the books release in 2013 indicate that the optimistic tone continued. Described in the Publishers Weekly as “an impassioned love letter to cities and their political leaders” the book lays out a case for why cities are so important today and how they can be an integral part to an improved global governance structure in the future.
The idea of collaborating to tackle real problems in a context where effectiveness trumps ideology is replacing the dysfunctional idea of national sovereignty. ‘Today, after a long history of regional success, the nation-state is failing us on a global scale,” Barber writes. “It was the perfect political recipe for the liberty and independence of autonomous peoples and nations. It is utterly unsuited to interdependence. The city, always the human habitat of first resort, has in today’s globalizing world once again become democracy’s best hope.’
Stamford Social Innovation Review