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Critique of Cosmopolitan Reason

Timing and Spacing the Concept of World Citizenship


Edited By Rebecka Lettevall and Kristian Petrov

Since the Enlightenment, the definition of terms such as humanity, citizenship and rights has fluctuated and these ideas continue to have relevance for contemporary discussions of globalization from a «cosmopolitan» perspective. This volume goes back to the conception of cosmopolitanism in Greek antiquity in order to trace it through history, resulting in an unmasking of its many myths. The concept is reconstructed with reference not only to well-known (and some lesser known) historical thinkers of cosmopolitanism, but also to noted «anti-cosmopolitans».
The first aim of the book is to display historical perspectives on a discourse which has been dominated by ahistorical presumptions. The second is to critically explore alternative paths beyond the Western imagination, redefining the Enlightenment legacy and the centre-periphery dichotomy. Most notably, Eastern Europe and the Arab world are integrated within the analysis of cosmopolitanism. Within a framework of conceptual history ( Begriffsgeschichte), cosmopolitan reason is criticized from the viewpoints of comparative literature, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, postcolonialism and moral philosophy.
The book’s critical approach is an attempt to come to terms with the anachronism, essentialism, ethnocentrism and anthropocentrism that sometimes underlie contemporary theoretical and methodological uses of the term «cosmopolitanism». By adding historical and contextual depth to the problem of cosmopolitanism, a reflexive corrective is presented to enhance ongoing discussions of this topic within as well as outside academia.
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Cosmopolitanism and the Infidelity to Internationalism: Repeating Postcoloniality and the World Revolution



What we do know is that social progress can only result from a position that bridges the gap between the universal goals of humanity and their expression, which can only be particular. This is what internationalism is all about.


Although cosmopolitics1 theorists maintain that cosmopolitanism and internationalism are neither identical nor incompatible, these theorists generally omit and erase narratives of radical internationalism from their accounts of cosmopolitanism. In their work, “cosmopoliticians” such as Daniele Archibugi, Bruce Robbins and Pheng Cheah promote the utopian possibilities of a postnational world that can presumably facilitate the subject’s (usually disembodied) modes of sociability and belonging in and out of communities at will. That is, they valorize multiple and overlapping allegiances to different communities through forms of “flexible citizenship”, ← 267 | 268 → without paying enough attention to the ways in which these postmodern forms of identity reproduce the power structures and relationships of the neoliberal, global capitalism regime. As such, cosmopoliticians usually disregard the extent to which the nation-state is still the most important site for the protection of the millions of disenfranchised communities around the world from the neoliberal encroachments of the global capitalist system.2 Consequently, cosmopoliticians subtract the dialectical articulation of national modes of sociability from international narratives of solidarity and struggle, thus omitting and suppressing histories of oppositional narratives of anti-colonial resistance, especially national liberation struggles, decolonization projects, hemispheric indigenous solidarity, communitarian forms of alliances and resistance and, also, socialist internationalism.3 Lacking a...

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