Questioning Geopolitics: Political Projects in a Changing World-System

By Georgi M. Derluguian; Scott L. Greer | Go to book overview

7 Radicalism, Resistance, and Cultural
Lags: A Commentary on Benjamin
Barber's Jihad vs. McWorld
Bernard Beck, Scott L. Greer, and
Charles C. Ragin

In 1997, McDonald's ran a series of advertisements in the London Underground. Each had the phrase "A taste of home" in one of a dozen languages and a picture of an identical McDonald's meal: "Sabor Casero." "Un goût de chez vous." Should one eat such a meal, seeking familiarity in the foreignness of London, one could not then throw away the wrappers. The wastebaskets in the Underground system had been removed so that they could not hide bombs.

A reflective individual riding the Underground certainly might agree with Benjamin Barber that democracy does not really have the initiative. Barber bases his Jihad vs. McWorld ( 1995) on the observation that the most dynamic forces today are not states, or democratic communities, but two other forces that are both newer and much more malign. The first, "McWorld" is his name for the giant, unaccountable, Philistine, and faceless transnational corporations that are placing fast food restaurants on every city corner and attempting to control the contours of culture in their quest for growth and profit. Diminishing local difference and replacing it with plastic, vaguely American homogeneity, these corporations are internal dictatorships that are only barely subject to states or accountable to anybody. The second, "Jihad," is the angry and unreasoning response of the people who cannot be defined by their consumerism: the excluded, or those who are so starved of meaning that they join the most exclusivist and fanatic organizations to defend and purify their local culture. Jihad is the wave of violent assertions of local purity and exclusiveness that began with a trickle in the Basque Country or the West Bank and now propels new and increasingly violent struggles for recognition from any part of the world into

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