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Cosmopolitanism is the idea that all of humanity belongs to a single community, possibly based on a shared morality. This is contrasted with communitarian theories, in particular the ideologies of patriotism and nationalism. Cosmopolitanism may entail some sort of world government or it may simply refer to more inclusive moral, economic, and/or political relationships between nations or individuals of different nations[citation needed]. A person who adheres to the idea of cosmopolitanism in any of its forms is called a cosmopolite.

The cosmopolitan community might be based on an inclusive morality, a shared economic relationship, or a political structure that encompasses different nations. In its more positive versions, the cosmopolitan community is one in which individuals from different places (e.g. nation-states) form relationships of mutual respect. As an example, Kwame Anthony Appiah suggests the possibility of a cosmopolitan community in which individuals from varying locations (physical, economic, etc.) enter relationships of mutual respect despite their differing beliefs (moral, religious, political, etc.). However, the cosmopolitan community can also be understood as some kind of elite club, one based primarily on economic privilege. In this light, the cosmopolitan individual has advantages over less economically privileged individuals, advantages that might include personal and political liberties and freedoms.

The word derives from Greek cosmos Κόσμος (the Universe) and polis Πόλις (city).


[edit] Philosophical cosmopolitanism

[edit] Philosophical roots

Cosmopolitanism can be traced back to the founding father of the Cynic movement in Ancient Greece, Diogenes of Sinope (c. 412 B.C.). Of Diogenes it is said: “Asked where he came from, he answered: “I am a citizen of the world (kosmopolitês)" [1]. This was a ground-breaking concept, because the broadest basis of social identity in Greece at that time was either the individual city-state or the Greeks (Hellenes) as a group. The Stoics, who later took Diogenes' idea and developed it into a full blown concept, typically stressed that each human being “dwells […] in two communities – the local community of our birth, and the community of human argument and aspiration”.[2] A common way to understand Stoic cosmopolitanism is through Hierocles' circle model of identity that states that we should regard ourselves as concentric circles, the first one around the self, next immediate family, extended family, local group, citizens, countrymen, humanity. The task of world citizens becomes then to “draw the circles somehow towards the centre, making all human beings more like our fellow city dwellers, and so forth.”[3]

[edit] Modern cosmopolitan thinkers

Immanuel Kant seems to have adopted the Stoic ideas. In his 1795 essay “Perpetual Peace” he stages a ius cosmopoliticum (cosmopolitan law/right) as a guiding principle to protect people from war, and morally grounds this cosmopolitan right by the principle of universal hospitality.

The philosophical concepts of Emmanuel Levinas, on ethics, and Jacques Derrida, on hospitality, provide a theoretical framework for the relationships between people in their everyday lives and apart from any form of written laws or codes. For Levinas, the foundation of ethics consists in the obligation to respond to the Other. In Being for the Other, he writes that there is no “universal moral law,” only the sense of responsibility (goodness, mercy, charity) that the Other, in a state of vulnerability, calls forth. The proximity of the Other is an important part of Levinas’s concept: the face of the Other is what compels the response. For Derrida, the foundation of ethics is hospitality, the readiness and the inclination to welcome the Other into one’s home. Ethics, he claims, is hospitality. Pure, unconditional hospitality is a desire that underscores the conditional hospitality necessary in our relationships with others. Levinas’s and Derrida’s theories of ethics and hospitality hold out the possibility of an acceptance of the Other as different but of equal standing. Isolation is not a feasible alternative in the world, therefore, it is important to consider how best to approach these interactions, and to determine what is at stake for ourselves and the others: what conditions of hospitality to impose, and whether or not we have responded to the call of the Other. Further, both theories reveal the importance of considering how best to interact with the Other and others, and what is at stake.

A further state of cosmopolitanism occurred after the Second World War. As a reaction to the Holocaust and the other massacres, the concept of crimes against humanity became a generally accepted category in international law. This clearly shows the appearance and acceptance of a notion of individual responsibility that is considered to exist toward all of humankind.[4]

In Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers, Anthony Kwame Appiah notices something important about how social ethics seem to operate: Whatever obligation I might have to another, especially a foreign other, that obligation does not supersede the obligations I have to those people most familiar to me. However, as Judith Butler questions, "at what cost do I establish the familiar as the criterion" for valuing others? (Precarious Life 38)[5] If I value the familiar more than the foreign, what are the consequences? Paul Gilroy offers a possible alternative to this emphasis on familiarity arguing that "methodical cultivation of a degree of estrangement from one's own culture and history ... might qualify as essential to a cosmopolitan commitment" (The Planet 67)[6]. This estrangement entails a "process of exposure to otherness" in order to foster "the irreducible value of diversity within sameness" (67). Estrangement, therefore, could lead to de-emphasising the familiar in ethics by integrating otherness.

Philosophical cosmopolitans are moral universalists: they believe that all humans, and not merely compatriots or fellow-citizens, come under the same moral standards. The boundaries between nations, states, cultures or societies are therefore morally irrelevant. A widely cited example of a contemporary cosmopolitan is Kwame Anthony Appiah.[7]

Some philosophers and scholars argue that the objective and subjective conditions arising in today's unique historical moment, an emerging planetary phase of civilization, creates a latent potential for the emergence of a cosmopolitan identity as global citizens and possible formation of a global citizens movement.[8] These emerging objective and subjective conditions in the planetary phase include improved and affordable telecommunications; space travel and the first images of our fragile planet floating in the vastness of space; global warming and other ecological threats to our collective existence; new global institutions such as the United Nations, World Trade Organization, or International Criminal Court; the rise of transnational corporations and integration of markets often termed economic globalization; the emergence of global NGOs and transnational social movements, such as the World Social Forum; and so on. Globalization, a more common term, typically refers more narrowly to the economic and trade relations and misses the broader cultural, social, political, environmental, demographic, values and knowledge transitions taking place.

[edit] Political and sociological cosmopolitanism

Ulrich Beck (b. May 15, 1944) is a sociologist who has posed the new concept of cosmopolitan critical theory in direct opposition to traditional nation-state politics. Nation-state theory sees power relations only among different state actors, and excludes a global economy, or subjugates it to the nation-state model. Cosmopolitanism sees global capital as a possible threat to the nation state and places it within a meta-power game in which global capital, states and civil society are its players.

It is important to mark a distinction between Beck's cosmopolitanism and the idea of a world state. For Beck, imposing a single world order is considered hegemonic at best and ethnocentric at worst. Rather, political and sociological cosmopolitanism rests upon these fundamental foundations:

  • "Acknowledging the otherness of those who are culturally different"
  • "Acknowledging the otherness of the future"
  • "Acknowledging the otherness of nature"
  • "Acknowledging the otherness of the object"
  • "Acknowledging the otherness of other rationalities"

A number of philosophers, including Emmanuel Levinas, have introduced the concept of the “Other.” For Levinas, the Other is given context in ethics and responsibility; we should think of the Other as anyone and everyone outside ourselves. According to Levinas, our initial interactions with the Other occur before we form a will--the ability to make choices. The Other addresses us and we respond: even the absence of response is a response. We are thus conditioned by the Other’s address and begin to form culture and identity. After the formation of the will, we choose whether to identity with the addresses by others and, as a result, continue the process of forming identity. During this process, it is possible to recognize ourselves in our interactions with Others. Even in situations where we engage in the most minimal interaction, we ascribe identities to others and simultaneously to ourselves. Our dependence on the Other for the continuous formation of language, culture, and identity means that we are responsible to others and that they are responsible to us. Also once we’ve formed a will, it becomes possible to recognize this social interdependence. When we have gained the capacity for recognition, the imperative is to perform that recognition and thereby become ethically responsible to the Other.

Cosmopolitanism shares some aspects of universalism--namely the globally acceptable notion of human dignity that must be protected and enshrined in international law. However, the theory deviates in recognising the differences between world cultures. Thus, a "cosmopolitan declaration of human rights" would be defined in terms of negatives that no one could disagree over. In addition, cosmopolitanism calls for equal protection of the environment and against the negative side effects of technological development. Human dignity, however, is convoluted because it is necessary to first distinguish who has the right to be respected and second to consider what rights are protectable. Under cosmopolitanism, all humans have rights; however, history shows that recognition of these rights is not guaranteed. As an example, Judith Butler discusses a Western discourse of “human” in Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. Butler works through the idea of “human” and notes that “human” has been “naturalized in its ‘Western’ mold by the contemporary workings of humanism” (32). Thus, there is the idea that not all “human” lives will be supported in the same way, indeed, that some human lives are worth more protection than others. This idea is reiterated in Sunera Thobani’s “Nationality in the Age of Global Terror,” where she discusses a discourse in which Muslim people fall into a good/bad dichotomy: a “good Muslim” is one who has been Westernized and a “bad Muslim” is one who visibly rejects Western cultural influences. Thobani notes that it is through media representations that these ideas become naturalized. Individuals who embrace Western ideals are considered fully “human” and are more likely to be afforded dignity and protection than those who defend their non-Westernized cultural identities.

According to those who follow Beck's reasoning, a cosmopolitan world would consist of a plurality of states, which would use global and regional consensus to gain greater bargaining power against opponents. States would also utilise the power of civil society actors such as Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and consumers to strengthen their legitimacy and enlist the help of investors to pursue a cosmopolitan agenda. Some examples:

  • States hand over the global monitoring of human rights and environmental issues to NGOs like Amnesty International and Greenpeace who enjoy a high level of legitimacy in the public sphere.
  • States support NGOs to persuade consumers to "divest" from products that break cosmopolitan human and environmental codes.

Other authors imagine a cosmopolitan world moving beyond today's conception of nation-states. These scholars argue that a truly cosmopolitan identity of Global Citizen will take hold, diminishing the importance of national identities. The formation of a global citizens movement would lead to the establishment of democratic global institutions, creating the space for global political discourse and decisions, would in turn reinforce the notion of citizenship at a global level. Nested structures of governance balancing the principles of irreducibility (i.e., the notion that certain problems can only be addressed at the global level, such as global warming) and subsidiarity (i.e., the notion that decisions should be made at as local a level possible) would thus form the basis for a cosmopolitan political order.[9]

Institutional cosmopolitanism advocates some reforms in global governance to allow world citizens to take more directly a part into political life. A number of proposals have been made in order to make this possible. Cosmopolitan democracy, for example, suggests strengthening the United Nations and other international organizations by creating a World Parliamentary Assembly. .[10]

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Diogenes Laertius, "The Lives of Eminent Philosophers"
  2. ^ Nussbaum, Martha C. (1997). Kant and Stoic Cosmopolitanism, in The Journal of Political Philosophy, Volume 5, Nr 1, pp. 1-25
  3. ^ Ibid: p. 9
  4. ^ Beck, Ulrich (2006). The Cosmopolitan Vision, Cambridge: Polity Press, p. 45
  5. ^ Butler, Judith. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. New York: Verso, 2004.
  6. ^ Gilroy, Paul. "The Planet." After Empire: Multiculture or Postcolonial Melancholia. New York: California UP,2004.
  7. ^ Appiah, Kwame Anthony (2006), Cosmopolitanism. Ethics in a World of Strangers, London: Penguin Books
  8. ^ GTI Paper Series see Dawn of the Cosmopolitan: The Hope of a Global Citizens Movement, paper #15, and Global Politics and Institutions, paper #3
  9. ^ GTI Paper Series see Global Politics and Institutions, paper #3
  10. ^ Daniele Archibugi, editor, Debating Cosmopolitics, London: Verso, 2003.

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