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Critique of Cosmopolitan Reason

Timing and Spacing the Concept of World Citizenship


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 Legacy of East European Dissent



Recently there has been increasing interest in the theories of cosmopolitanism, with authors being challenged by the call to identify, explore and understand “the cosmopolitan condition” (Beck and Szneider 2006, 1) in terms of the most common points of view, topics of research, lived experiences and visions. The core idea shared by all cosmopolitan views is that all human beings belong to a single community, in which the ultimate units of moral concern appear as individual human beings, not states or particular forms of human associations.

In this chapter, I intend to investigate whether East European dissent may provide any lessons for the contemporary debates on cosmopolitanism. The chapter focuses on the dissident thinking of Charter 77, a human rights movement in socialist Czechoslovakia, with particular focus on the writings of Jan Patočka (1907–1977), philosopher, co-founder and spokesperson of Charter 77.

The chapter explores two sets of interrelated questions. The first set of questions concerns the possibility and practice of dissidence. In this context, it would be relevant to examine how the dissidents’ claims were formulated, in terms of what values, and if these values were local, national, international or universal. The East European dissidents questioned and contested the given/imposed meanings in their political regime, but what values legitimated such contestation is an aspect that also should be explored.

My assumption is that the Charter 77 civil, non-violent resistance to a hegemonic ideology and to a totalizing system...

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