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February 12 , 2010

The World and U2

One Band's Remaking of Global Activism


The Irish rock band U2, and especially its frontman Bono, are among the most effective activists ever. U2 has convinced wealthy governments to forgive tens of billions of dollars in loans while spreading its activist messages to billions of people, helping save millions of lives. So how did four boys from one of the poorest countries in the West achieve this? Who and what influenced them? What strategies did they use to succeed as much as they did as activists, and how did those strategies change over time? In particular, how did lead singer Bono make the leap into superstar lobbying? And, with so much attention on him, how has he handled critics who have taken to task his work on behalf of developing countries?

In The World and U2: One Band’s Remaking of Global Activism, Alan McPherson trains a historian’s eye on the evolution and influence of the band’s activism from its formation in 1976 to its most recent album and concert tour. Throughout its nearly four decades, the band has held up a mirror to the increasing selfishness in the world while at the same time working to fill the void left by those who have abandoned the world’s poor to their plight. From raising awareness about war and human rights in the 1980s to engaging in direct action in the 1990s to moving mountains of cash for the planet’s poorest in the twenty-first century, the band, and especially Bono, have both raised the bar and set the example for other celebrity activists. But it is also a success that has brought a greater scrutiny to bear on U2’s activism and initiated a healthy debate about the merits of Western development aid.

The World and U2: One Band’s Remaking of Global Activism tells this story of U2’s successful storming of the world’s philanthropic stage. It will enchant the band’s fans, engage its critics, and offer lessons—and warnings—to activists seeking to change things for the better.
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