Benjamin R. Barber

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Benjamin R. Barber (born, August 2, 1939) "is a political theorist renowned for his passionate defense of "strong democracy," a democratic theory that advances the role of robust democratic citizenship over formal constitutional mechanisms, and is particularly attentive to civic participation, civic education, and a vibrant civil society. Barber's many books have been widely read and translated, and he is a well-known intellectual figure within and - of special importance to Barber - outside the academy, both in the United States and abroad. He writes not only as a scholar seeking to investigate varieties of democratic theory, but as a public advocate of a richer democratic life, and all of his writings, from academic studies to more popular articles in newspapers and magazines of opinion, have stressed the need to think practically about ways to foster a more democratic political life in America and abroad. His ability to bridge the worlds of theory and practice was reflected in his role as informal outside advisor to President Bill Clinton from 1994-1999.

"Barber received his B.A. from Grinnell College in 1960, but was educated prior to completing his undergraduate degree at the Albert Schweitzer College in Switzerland and the London School of Economics, where he studied in part under Michael Oakeshott, with whom Barber came to share a critical eye toward philosophical systems or any theoretical approach that sought to regulate human life and political reality without regard to circumstance or particularity. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1967. His dissertation, written under the direction of Louis Hartz, was a comparative study in which he argued in favor of the virtues of Switzerland's participatory cantons over the inadequacies of Western liberal representative democracies. From 1974 to 1983 he was editor of the journal Political Theory, and has been the recipient of Guggenheim, Fulbright, and American Council of Learned Society fellowships. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Haverford College, Hunter College, Colorado College, Princeton University, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en sciences sociales, and from 1970-2001 at Rutgers University, where in 1988 he became the Walt Whitman Professor of Political Science and founded and subsequently directed the Whitman Center for the Culture and Politics of Democracy. In 2001 he joined the faculty of the University of Maryland as Kekst Professor of Civil Society, and as a Principal of "The Democracy Collaborative." [1]

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  1. Biography, Benjamin R. Barber, accessed December 1, 2007.
  2. Advisory Board, Center for a New American Dream, accessed December 28, 2007.
  3. Center Bios, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, accessed February 12, 2008.