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From the Imagined Community to the Practice Community

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From the Imagined Community to the Practice Community

Barcelona Metropolis,

5 min read
5 take-aways
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Cities can provide people with a sense of belonging in a way national governments can’t. 

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Globalization has led to greater economic prosperity and political freedom, but it has also eroded the power of national governments and the social cohesion essential to maintaining national communities. Consequently, the 2010s have seen a rise of ethnic and economic nationalism in liberal democracies around the world. For Yochai Benkler, however, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. He argues that cities can play a unique role in providing people with a sense of community and belonging while citizens can continue to enjoy the political freedoms of liberal democracy. His vision of participatory urban communities will inspire city dwellers everywhere.


Democratic capitalism – the combination of a liberal democratic political system with a capitalist economic system – is under attack around the world. In some countries, the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis provided an opening for populist movements, blaming globalization and immigrants for the native population’s lingering economic hardships. Yet even in wealthier social democracies such as Sweden and Denmark, ethno-nationalist parties are gaining popular appeal by offering an alternative to cosmopolitan liberalism. The combination of political centralization, economic...

About the Author

Yochai Benkler lectures on the law at Harvard University and is co-director of its Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

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