From imperial to dialogical cosmopolitanism

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Cosmopolitanism, at the very least, is a way of relating to the world. The question would be, what is the nature of that relationship? From the Greek stoics, through the Medieval Christians with their universalistic Gospel, through the Byzantine Empire, to the Enlightenment philosophes, to be cosmopolitan was to think oneself citizen of the entire world. The implicit claim was that one’s loyalty should be to a larger “we” than that of one’s local city-state, ethos, nation, or even empire. Nothing human would be stranger to the cosmopolitan citizen of the world. Already in this minimalist definition of cosmopolitanism we find at play several forces: The implicit recognition of the force of locality and place that claims one; the reference to both an epistemic and ethical or moral outlook; and the projection or stipulation that this epistemic and moral outlook would turn into a substantive political project. For the moment, then, we can say that cosmopolitanism implicitly recognizes the power of locality, for it stands in tension with it. Cosmopolitanism is both an epistemic and moral relationship to the historical world of humans, for it seeks to know and recognize humanity in everything that humans have accomplished. Cosmopolitanism, therefore, even if in an attenuated form, also entails a “cosmopolitan” project in which some sort of legal-political institutional framework would allow for the cohabitation and mutual thriving of all that is singular, and thus different, and differentiating in humanity. Another way of putting this, perhaps in a more schematic and formalized way would be to say that cosmopolitanism is the dialectical interplay between singularity and universality, placedness and displacement, rootedness and rootlessness, home and homelessness, stationariness and mobility. One is never cosmopolitan without setting out from some locality, whether it be spatial or temporal. One is never simply rooted, localized without that indexicality being deciphered with reference to some view of the global map. To be local is to be on some sort of map, a map that aims to provide a glance at the whole. A locality is a trajectory from a distance to a place, and from that place back toward that horizon of distantiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHuman Rights, Human Dignity, and Cosmopolitan Ideals
Subtitle of host publicationEssays on Critical Theory and Human Rights
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781317119715
ISBN (Print)9781409442950
StatePublished - May 13 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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