Cosmopolitan Modernity

by Anastasia Marinopoulou (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection XII, 324 Pages


This book examines recent debates on the political dynamics of cosmopolitanism, particularly in its connection with European civil society and the public sphere. The aim of the volume is to trace to what extent cosmopolitanism corresponds to «second modernity», with the latter concept referring to the potential for consensus, the creation of multiple political alternatives and the recognition of otherness. The book accordingly explores questions about democratic legitimacy and the formation of social and political institutions and presents empirical research on phenomena such as global violence.
The volume is intended to constitute a cosmopolitan project in itself, comprising contributions from scholars with very diverse approaches. Together, these contributions provide a stimulating analysis of what cosmopolitanism can offer to socially and politically diverse twenty-first-century societies.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: The Origins of the Second Modernity – Any Political Prospects?
  • 1. Some Conceptual and Structural Problems of Global Cosmopolitanism
  • 2. Cosmopolitization and the Prospects of a Cosmopolitan Modernity
  • 3. Cosmopolitanism and its Enemies: The Return of Nationalism – The Case of Austria
  • 4. Cosmopolitan Possibilities and Ethnographic Realities in the Workplace: The Case of Struggling Employees in the Mass Media Sector
  • 5. Cosmopolitanism and Antisemitism: Two Faces of Universality
  • 6. Violence, Memory, Time: Towards a Cosmopolitan Model of Learning from Atrocity
  • 7. Cosmopolitanism and the Body
  • 8. Defining Cosmopolitanism: European Politics of the Twenty-First Century
  • 9. Differentiation, Class Formation and Elite-Network Structures in World Society
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index



When Graf Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi urged the creation of the ‘United States of Europe’ in the early 1920s, some critics linked the core idea of his book Paneuropa (1923) to the typical aristocrat’s nostalgia for Europe’s imperial past. His concept was totally out of line with the principles of nationalism that had triumphantly prevailed in the First World War leading to the splitting up of four empires (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Czarist Russia and the Ottoman Empire) into a multitude of nation-states.

The belief in the existence of common values overriding the national interest sounded parochial and outdated in societies with unlimited faith in the uniqueness of nations and the organizational effectiveness of the nation-state. Federalization of the American sort was considered a threat to the newly won independence of small nations and to the balance of power among stronger nations. The political, economic and ideological conditions were clearly unfavourable to the recognition of deeply rooted common principles and interests that could unite nations on a higher supranational level of authority.

What seemed impossible in the interwar years became essential during the Second World War. The devastation caused by the war and the Nazi occupation, but also the economic breakdown of the 1930s, shook up the ideological foundations of the modern nation-state. The renovation of its mission became a central tenet of wartime and postwar plans for a new political order in Europe and the rest of the world. Coudenhove-Kalergi, still a fervent activist of Paneuropa purposes, was now recognized as a prophet of the European unification process that soon became the driving force behind Europe’s political re-organization.

European integration and the creation of the welfare state constituted two sides of the same coin. A crucial parameter of European unification ← vii | viii → was the recognition by each and every member-state of the European Communities that, since they could not survive in peace on their own, it was in their common interest to design policies on the basis of re-discovered common values like personal freedom, individual and social rights, the rule of law and solidarity between the strong and the weak.

Over the years, the European Community/Union evolved into an exemplary case of supranational governance. After 1989/90 the success of the EU in the former socialist European countries actually strengthened theories advocating the inter-connection between peace, globalization and democratization. The EU now offered the most successful application of the post-Cold War dogma that the victory of Western democracy and capitalism over communism would finally enable the universal spreading of Western values and interests. The globalization of democracy, an early Western concept after the fall of the Berlin Wall, was based on the notion that, in the absence of communist pressure, most nations would adopt democracy as a superior political system and as a guarantee to social and inter-state peace, just like the Europeans did.

But reality proved this estimate inaccurate. Democratization was not promoted universally and, when it was, it often led either to revolution (e.g. the ‘Arab spring’) or went in the opposite direction to liberal democracy (e.g. terrorism or the electoral victories of Islamist forces in the Middle East). On a different level, resistance to the Western type of political governance remained strong on the part of a number of big powers (Russia, China, India), impeding also the expansion of democratic principles to international authorities.

In view of these failures, the idea of cosmopolitan democracy has contributed greatly to the international inter-disciplinary debate concerning the need to democratize globalization rather than the other way round. Cosmopolitan democracy considers the implementation of democratic governance among nations as the safest path to the spread of democracy within nations. The democratic structure of international organizations is also considered a prerequisite not only for the endorsement of cosmopolitan values, but also for the articulation of anxieties that unite modern ‘citizens of the world’ (cosmopolites) beyond national limitations. The quality of democratic governance directly influences the number of democratic ← viii | ix → regimes in the world, but also the legitimacy of democracy among ‘democracy sponsors’, not least in the EU, which has been openly struggling for years with a painful ‘democratic deficit’.

Political cosmopolitanism presupposes the inability of the nation-state to solve vital problems, but also to define them. When citizens receive inadequate protection from national governance and international structures based on national sovereignty, they have a strong incentive to adopt the identity of a ‘citizen of the world’. Still, whether a cosmopolitan society exists remains a highly intriguing question.

Political cosmopolitanism is a great challenge for the world and Europe in the twenty-first century. Europe made a first exodus from the classical nation-state after the Second World War. Yet the nation-state remained the main political hub. The expansion of integration as well as serious turning points – e.g. a grave economic crisis – have the potential to fuel demands for a new social contract between the EU, its nations and the world order. The balance between democracy, economic welfare and security may be also re-negotiated, this time with stronger pressure from European citizens on the decisions of European elites. The insistent rise of populism and extremist political forces in many European countries demonstrates a dangerous wave of reaction against both the elite character and the severe economization/globalization of ‘project Europe’.

The future of Europe is a central aspect of the study of cosmopolitanism, as the EU proved a unique cosmopolitan endeavour in the twentieth century. For this reason, it concerns most chapters of this inter-disciplinary volume. Cosmopolitanism is studied through the lenses of both theory and political praxis. The authors engage the reader by combining high-level scholarly work with discussion of the basic concepts of cosmopolitanism. The fine editing merges properly diverse academic backgrounds and disciplines into a valuable guide on political cosmopolitanism that will undoubtedly inspire further theoretical study of this topic. ← ix | x →

← x | xi → Acknowledgements

The editor wishes to thank the series editors Dr Tracey Skillington and Dr Patrick O’Mahony and Christabel Scaife; working with them proved to be a sheer pleasure. Holly Catling was an invaluable help. Dr Anna Mavroleon kindly helped with significant academic issues. The Center for Hellenic Studies of Harvard University in Greece supported many stages of the research in multifarious ways. An anonymous reader merits special thanks.


Anastasia Marinopoulou ← xi | xii →


Introduction: The Origins of the Second Modernity – Any Political Prospects?

But now I hear called out on all sides: do not argue! The officer says: do not argue, just drill! The tax collector says: do not argue, just pay! The clergyman says: do not argue, just believe! … I answer: the public use of one’s reason must be free at all times, and this alone can bring about enlightenment among humans.1




The core idea of a cosmopolitan modernity is captured by Kant in the quote above, that is, that the progress of humanity requires a free and continuous use of reason. Uncoerced public dialogue is, for Kant, the cosmopolitan moment. The aim of the present volume was to formulate theses, antitheses and controversies on the cosmopolitan which would not necessarily be a pure interpretation of this Kantian notion but would, nevertheless, attempt to combat misconceptions and the vagueness often attached to cosmopolitan perspectives. Cosmopolitanism is often viewed in the literature on politics and social criticism either as the potential of the national state or as facilitating the political and economic federation of a multiplicity of sovereign states. Both considerations are obsolete and dystopian in character. The series of essays comprised in this volume attempt to introduce and constitute an overall assessment of the irrelevance of cosmopolitanism to both hypotheses concerning federalism and national states.

← 1 | 2 → However, beyond questions in interpretation, the main question and challenge of the volume is the ongoing validity of the cosmopolitan project and the coherence of the political stances that support it. Criticism of cosmopolitan aspects of social and political theorizing may not count against or may even be obviated by other aspects. Nevertheless, the aim of the present volume is to cover crucial issues in debates on cosmopolitanism, issues that remain to a great extent unresolved (e.g., comparative understanding of cosmopolitanism). Arguably, the innovative element of this volume is its exploration not only of a positive but also a negative evaluation of cosmopolitan tendencies. Hence, many arguments included in the volume can be considered as cosmopolitan theorizing ‘from the opposite side’, so to speak, or from the ‘other’ point of view, deriving from the anti-globalization movements or from a rigorous politics of the national state. The idea was that a genuine critical engagement with the cosmopolitan project, as the present volume aspires to be, has to include not only the thesis but also the antithesis to its core concepts and in a manner that allows the reader to reflect openly on central arguments.

Cosmopolitanism is a socially aspiring project and constitutes a political process that societies produce and also endeavour to translate into practice. The prime aims of cosmopolitanism can be linked to a threefold intention to fight against:

a.  the disruption of universal peace;

b.  the sense of citizens that they are weak and voiceless within civil society;

c.  the state of political inferiority experienced by an extensive number of people without social and political rights within modern societies.

This threefold negation generates the prospects for cosmopolitanism that are therefore theorized in this volume, that cosmopolitanism is a vindication of the potentiality for uncoerced dialogue on political praxis with a universal perspective. Nevertheless, it also incorporates a moment of epoché2 ← 2 | 3 → for people and societies. It designates political participation which endogenously carries the attitude of self-reflection; it requires political dialogue but simultaneously sets the bases for a critical elaboration of the aims of dialecticity for all participants; and, last but not least, it aims at democratic politics but does not hesitate to innovate regarding both democracy and the understanding of the political.

The notion of cosmopolitanism has found many forms of elaboration and realization throughout modernity. The first modernity (no matter which initial point the reader considers) embarked on inquiries about the constitution of cosmopolitanism. Although it was not until the Stoics that cosmopolitan concerns initiated a movement towards redefining geographical borders for the sake of an open polity, in other theorizations by Herodotus and Aristotle priority was also given to the redefinition and political limitation of the national in comparison with the emergent but potent city-state.3

The city-state was a limited geographical area and its citizens were also enclosed by social boundaries, but this did not prevent the advent or circulation of cosmopolitan views from the classical period onwards. Rather, it generated more profound criticism on the limitations as well as the potentialities of transnational politics, breeding multifarious political problematics on the prospect of politics within, as well as beyond, its geographical boundaries.

The transcendence of the geographically limited was realized within a whole institutional frame.4 It is no wonder that such a heritage was the ← 3 | 4 → conceptual basis of political modernity as understood by Kant. Although it is difficult to discriminate, some works of Kant comprise a rather salient political argumentation.5 Due to Kantian cosmopolitanism, the understanding of modernity was no longer the same. It was not merely that Kant negated the political state of his era. He also offered a valid alternative theorization to the wars currently raging, namely an outline for cosmopolitan peace sustained by the idea of cosmopolitan law.6

After the Second World War, the prime political issues at stake were, firstly, the avoidance of a third war by all politically legitimate means and, secondly, the stabilization of democratic processes on a European, if not universal, scale. Such political urgency definitively orientated both state and transnational political agendas towards certain measures. The latter acquired the form of legal innovations, but in terms of modern political pragmatics, what European politics is deficient in nowadays is not the articulation and practice of legal codes but an effective political answer to the growing legitimation deficiency within the European Union. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the integration of the majority of European states into the EU and the currency integration in 2002 appear to urge political integration on an institutional level. Notwithstanding this, the cosmopolitan theorization exceeds the limits of the European agenda and presents a universal perspective, while acknowledging that the formation of the EU was a concrete cosmopolitan turn that rendered the EU the bearer of cosmopolitan pragmatics. The present volume attempts to cover both perspectives equally: that of EU politics as the potential realization of ← 4 | 5 → a cosmopolitan claim as well as that of universal pragmatics. It includes modern social as well as political theorizing regarding the cosmopolitan perspective; it also emphasizes issues of empirical research along with essential qualitative characteristics.

The first question that the volume addresses is twofold: is cosmopolitanism seeking the nationalization of EU politics or the Europeanization of national politics? Such a question requires concrete and focused theorizing as well as particular solutions to a complexity of problematics. The second question formulates the main point of concern for modern politics: is cosmopolitanism, in practical terms, the pivotal function of democracy for twenty-first-century societies, and does such a democratic axis bear the potential to maintain a transnational educational character for citizens of present democracies and form a transnational political agenda for modern states?


XII, 324
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (July)
second modernity civil society public sphere Cosmopolitanism
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2015. XVI, 324 pp.

Biographical notes

Anastasia Marinopoulou (Volume editor)

Anastasia Marinopoulou is Associate Lecturer at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. She has taught at Munich University (Geschwister-Scholl Institute for Political Science), the University of Peloponnese and the Open University in Greece. Her research interests focus on epistemology, political theory and philosophy of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. She is the author of The Concept of the Political in Max Horkheimer and Jürgen Habermas (2008).


Title: Cosmopolitan Modernity
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336 pages