Beck, Ulrich — The Cosmopolitan Vision

Work Cited

Beck, Ulrich. The Cosmopolitan Vision. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006.

Summary of the Introduction

The introduction opens with the opposition cosmopolitanism/patriotism. Today this old debate is over because the human condition has become cosmopolitan (2)

Cosmopolitanism is no more a controversial rational idea.

The “cosmopolitan outlook”: “Global sense, a sense of boundarylessness. An everyday, historically alert, reflexive awareness of ambivalences in a milieu of blurring differentiations and cultural contradictions. It reveals not just the ‘anguish’ but also the possibility of shaping one’s life and social relations under conditions of cultural mixture. It is simultaneously a sceptical, disillusioned, self-critical outlook.” (3)


Cosmopolitan identities: “One constructs a model of one’s own identity by dipping freely into the Lego set of globally available identities and building a progressively inclusive self-image. The result is a patchwork, quasi-cosmopolitan, but simultaneously provincial, identity whose central characteristic is its rejection of traditional relations of responsibility.” (5) Good example of the “both/and” that replaced the “either/or” of methodological nationalism.

Cosmopolitan empathy: “globalization of emotions” (5-6). Five interconnected constitutive principles of the cosmopolitan outlook:

  1. The principle of the experience of crisis in world society: “civilisational community of fate”
  2. The principle of recognition of cosmopolitan differences and the resulting cosmopolitan conflict character
  3. The principle of cosmopolitan empathy and of perspective-taking
  4. The principle of the impossibility of living in a world society and the impulsion to rebuild old walls
  5. The mélange principle: local and cosmopolitan cultures and traditions interpenetrate, intermingle.

Difference between globalization and cosmopolitanisation: globalization is one-dimensional as economic globalization. Cosmopolitanisationis multidimensional, it has irreversibly changed the historical nature of social worlds.

Three examples of cosmopolitans based on Munich, three writers from Munich write in distinct traditions of “rooted cosmopolitanism” that have both “roots” and “wings”:

  1. Thomas Mann (national cosmopolitanism): rejects in Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man the alternative nationalism versus internationalism and formulates the position of a national cosmopolitanism although he is aware of the “in-built ambivalences”. (11)
  2. Lion Feuchtwanger (German-Jewish cosmopolitanism): against the arbitrary administrative boundary one is born that determines who are friends and enemies
  3. Oskar Maria Graf (Catholic cosmopolitanism): From Tolstoy’s Christianity and Patriotism he quotes: “If men would only finally grasp that they are not children of some fatherland but of God the father!” (13) He puts “The world must become provincial. Only then will it become human.”

“What, then, does the cosmopolitan outlook signify? It does not herald the first rays of universal brotherly love among peoples, or the dawn of the world republic, or a free-floating global outlook, or compulsory xenophilia. Nor is cosmopolitanism a kind of supplement that is supposed to replace nationalism and provincialism, for the very good reason that the ideas of human rights and democracy need a national base. Rather, the cosmopolitan outlook means that, in a world of global crisis and dangers produced by civilisational and international, us and them, lose their validity and a new cosmopolitan realism becomes essential to survival.” (13-14)


Beck is building on his conception of “second modernity” and the “reflexive condition” it entails, as expounded in his famous Risk Society, and developed in the sequel World Risk Society and What is Globalization? In a nutshell, the present condition is reflexive, and as such everything is constructed including “reality.” As such there are no fixed identities, since they are socially constructed. The first modernity characterised by realism and a primary scientization with rationalism and the Enlightenment is replaced by a “reflexive scientization” based on constructivism. As such, science is equally altering the reality is attempts to describe and understand. Methodological cosmopolitanism is perceived as a better tool for describing this second modernity where globalisation — the movement produced by a world economy and increasing individualisation — have replaced the industrial society with a world risk society.

In consecutive articles and in this book, Beck elaborates on what he understands as cosmopolitanism, and develops the concept of “cosmopolitan realism.” He takes distance from “philosophical cosmopolitanism,” but in the end the project of a cosmopolitan sociology may just be the wishful thinking for normatively imposing a cosmopolitan project through “science.” For that, cosmopolitanism is opposed to nationalism, which is the basis for analysing the first modernity through the prism of the nation-state. Cosmopolitanism is also differentiated from globalization, which is a process of uniformization of the world around Western capitalistic values. Cosmopolitanism also have “enemies” in all forms of sectarian particularism, or uniformism, or violent universalism. All in all cosmopolitanism appears as “the good thing” that everyone should embrace.

I am not particularly unsympathetic to cosmopolitanism, but I think that a number of contradictions should be resolved. First and most importantly, this methodological cosmopolitanism claims to be opposed to nationalism, because different from methodological nationalism. However, it is based on the same hidden mechanisms of thought. Basically it is just replacing the nation-society on the “local” level we now know, with a global level. Everything we know in the nation-state is transferred to a global and transnational level.

Is cosmopolitanism synonymous with global then? Why not call it globalism? Well, because globalism is too close to globalization, which is a bad thing. Cosmopolitanism refers to something more positive, at least in our contemporary Western culture. This is the reason why the study of globalization could not lead to the introduction of a globalism philosophy, whereas cosmopolitanism as a philosophy seems to lead to the introduction of the study of “cosmopolitanization.”

My personal research project is actually to understand where our perception of cosmopolitanism as opposed to nationalism comes from, and why is cosmopolitanism associated with travel. My contention is that these two conceptions are not necessarily obvious to cosmopolitanism. First, the opposition between nationalism and cosmopolitanism, appeared when nationalism became a socially embedded discourse in the second half of the nineteenth century, and cosmopolitanism was thus constructed as the significant “other” to nationalism as negative and opposed to the good values of nationalism. This cosmopolitanism can hence be called a “national-cosmopolitanism,” since it is constructed inside the national paradigm. Second, the idea that cosmopolitanism is related to travel and the “citizen of the world” as a globe-trotter, is situated in eighteenth century Europe, when the “grand tour” was a must for all educated citizen or aristocrat. It was popularised by e.g. Oliver Goldsmith’s The Citizen of the World in Britain, or Fougeret de Monbron’s Le cosmopolite ou le citoyen du monde in France, which famous opening sentence served as an inspiration to Byron in Childe Harold as the epigraph runs:

The universe is a kind of book of which one has only read the first page when one has only seen one’s native land. I’ve leafed through a number of them, and have found them all equally bad. This examination has not proved fruitless. I hated my country. All the impertinences of the diverse peoples among which I have lived has reconciled me to it.

Further readings:

”Toward a new critical theory with a cosmopolitan intent”, Constellations, Vol. 10, No 4, 2003.

“Cosmopolitical realism: on the distinction between cosmopolitanism in philosophy and the social sciences”, Global Networks 4, 2, 2004, pp. 131-156.

”The cosmopolitan perspective: sociology of the second age of modernity, British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 51, No 1, 2000, pp. 79-105.

”The cosmopolitan society and its enemies”, Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 19(1-2), 2002, pp. 17-44.

Held, David — Culture and Political Community: National, Global and Cosmopolitan

Work Cited
Held, David. “Culture and Political Community: National, Global, and Cosmopolitan.” In Conceiving Cosmopolitanism: Theory, Context, Practice, edited by Steven Vertovec and Robin Cohen, 48-58. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

1. Historical backdrop
The globalisation of culture has a long history. The expansion of great religions, pre-modern empires, etc. “For most human history, these extensive ruling cultures passed through a fragmented mosaic of local cultures and particularisms; little stood between the political centre and the village. It was only with the emergence of nation-states and national cultures that a form of cultural identity coalesced between these two poles” (Held 2002, 48). Nation-states and nationalist projects transformed the spatial organisation of culture: education, linguistic policies, postal systems etc.
During the 18th century a new form of cultural globalisation crystallized: science, liberalism and socialism were modes of thought that “transformed the ruling cultures of almost every society on the planet” (49). Much more than McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.
However, since the end of WWII cultural globalisation increased tremendously. Though the vast majority of cultural products come from the USA, this does not amount to “cultural imperialism”, because culture is reinterpreted locally.
2. National culture and its Presuppositions
The creation of the modern state has helped creating a sense of nationhood. The consolidation of the ideas and narratives of the nation and nationhood has been linked to many factors:
– Attempt by ruling elites and governments to create a new identity that would legitimize the enhancement of state power and the coordination of policy
– Creation, via the education system, of a common framework of understanding, to enhance the process of state coordinated modernization
– Emergence of new communication systems, which facilitated interclass communication, and diffusion of national histories, a new imagined community
– Building a historical sense of homeland, consolidation of ethnic communities via a common public culture, shared legal rights and duties, and an economy creating mobility for its members within a bounded territory (50)
However, many nations were built on the basis of a pre-modern “ethnic core” (50).
“Political theory, by and large, has taken the nation-state as a fixed point of reference and has sought to place the state at the centre of interpretations of the nature and proper form of the political good” (Held 2002, 51).
Theory of political community:
1. Its members have a common socio-cultural identity
2. There is a common framework of “prejudices”, purposes and objectives, an “imagined community of fate”.
3. An institutional structure protects and represents the community
4. National communities “programme” actions, decisions and policies of their governments, and governments determine what is right or appropriate for their citizens
5. Members enjoy a common structure of rights and duties
Hence, the “ethical discourse cannot be detached from the “form of life” of a community; the categories of political discourse are integral to a particular tradition; and the values of such a community take precedence over or trump global requirements”. (52)
3. The Globalization of communications and culture

Critics of this model by globalists:
1. Cultural and political community today is constantly under review.
2. Failure to appreciate the diversity of political communities that individuals can appreciate
3. Globalisation had “hollowed out” states, eroding their sovereignty and autonomy
4. The fate of national community is no longer in its own hands: regional an global economic, environmental and political processes
5. National communities are locked into webs of regional and global governance
Political community and political good need to be understood as follow:
1. Individuals increasingly have complex loyalties and multi-layered identities
2. Political community begin to be re-imagined in regional and global terms
3. An institutional structure exists comprising elements of local, national, regional and global governance. At different levels, individual communities are represented and protected.
4. Globalization alters what a national community can ask of its government
5. The rights, duties and welfare of individuals can only be adequately entrenched if they are underwritten by regional and global regimes, laws and institutions.
“While for the traditionalists ethical discourse is, and remains, firmly rooted in the bounded political community, for the globalists it belongs squarely to the world of “breached boundaries” – the “world community” or global order” (Held 2002, 55).
4. Cosmopolitan alternatives
A third position, neither traditionalist nor globalist.
Globalists are true to some point about the changes in economics, politics and the environment. But they are underestimating how robust national and local cultures remain, and national institutions continue to have a central impact on public life.
“Cosmopolitanism is concerned to disclose the cultural, ethical and legal basis of political order in a world where political communities and states matter, but not only and exclusively” (57). It dates from the Stoics with “human beings living in a world of human beings and only incidentally members of polities”. But it is anachronistic after 200 years of nationalism. What is not anachronistic is “the recognition of the necessary partiality, one-sidedness and limitedness of ‘reason of political community’ or ‘reasons of state’ when judged from the perspective of a world of ‘overlapping communities of fate’ – where the trajectories of each and every country are tightly entwined” (57).
“Cosmopolitanism today must take this as a starting point, and build a robust conception of the proper basis of political community and the relations among communities”. The Kantian model is inadequate for this. “Cosmopolitanism needs to be reworked for another age.”
No space enough to develop the concept of “multi-dimensional nature of cosmopolitanism”.
Focus on “cultural cosmopolitanism”:
– does not deny cultural difference or the enduring significance of national tradition.
– Capacity to mediate between national cultures, communities of fate and alternative styles of life
– Possibility of dialogue with the traditions and discourses of others, expanding one’s framework of meaning and prejudice
– Emphasizes the possible fluidity of individual identity
Core requirements of “cultural cosmopolitanism”:
1. Recognition of the increasing interconnectedness of political communities in diverse domains including the social, economic and environmental
2. Development of an understanding of overlapping ‘collective fortunes’ that require collective solutions – locally, nationally, regionally and globally
3. The celebration of difference, diversity and hybridity while learning how to ‘reason from the point of view of others’ and mediate traditions.

Copp, David — International Justice and the Basic Needs Principle

Work Cited
Copp, David. “International justice and the basic needs principle.” In The Political Philosophy of Cosmopolitanism, edited by Gillian Brock and Harry Brighouse, 39-54. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

“Justice requires a state in favourable circumstances to enable its members to meet their basic needs throughout a normal lifespan”: the “basic needs principle” (39).
How to expand the “basic needs principle” internationally?
International distributive justice and the begning world
Conception of Justice:
1. Injustice can be corrected.
2. There is a duty to correct it, it is some agent’s responsibility.(40)
Let’s imagine a world divided into states, each being internally well-ordered and just and there have been no act of injustice between the countries: “Benign World”.
There are however still injustices in it that consists in or supervenes on relevant differences in life prospects, where such differences are due to inequality in the distribution of resources (40).
The basic needs principle
Justice requires a state in favourable circumstances to enable its members to meet their basic needs throughout a normal lifespan: the “basic needs principle”.
Justice also requires equality of opportunity and the basic liberties.
The principle demand intervention in the economy.
Normal lifespan = refers to the requirements of autonomous agency.
Enable = society is required to do the best it can, given what reasonable people would find acceptable.
Favourable circumstances = a state is in a relevantly favourable circumstance if: 1. it is economically in a position to enable its members to meet their basic needs, 2. It is able to do so by permissible means (not violating moral principles).
State, quasi-state, and society

“… Only the state or the society acting through the state as its agent is appropriately held responsible for discharging the duty regarding basic needs” (44).

Only the state is in a position to act as an agent of the society.
In a state of nature there is no possibility to discharge the duty regarding basic needs. In this situation a society has the duty to establish a state in order to gain the ability to discharge this duty.
rationales for the basic needs principle
·    The principle can be grounded in the moral importance of autonomous agency, given that, the basic needs are the requirements of autonomous agency.
·    The principle can also be supported by a Rawlsian argument: in the Original Position, people would choose a “difference principle of basic needs”.
·    Justice based on sufficiency rather than equality.s
·    Nozick’s Lockean proviso.

Injustices in the begnign world

“The basic needs principle applies to the situation in the world as a whole, assuming there is a global society. I think it is plausible moreover, that there is a global society” (Copp 2005, 47):

global economic and trade institutions, global political institutions, communities are not isolated from one another.
Even if every country in the world satisfies the basic needs principle, it is possible that the global society as a whole does not satisfy the principle.
International justice under a global state
A state is the system of institutions that governs a territory in which a legal system is in force, and that administers and enforces the legal system and carries out the programs of the government.
For a global state to exist there would have to be a global legal system and institutions to administer it.
Could be a unitary entity or a federation of states. (48)

“Transparency view”: “… the global state’s duty is to deal directly with the needs of individual people.” (48)

“Divided responsibility view”: “… the individual subordinate states have the primary responsibility to ensure that their residents are able to meet their needs. The global state is required only to ensure that the subordinate states have sufficient resources to be able to meet this primary responsibility.” (48)

The divided responsibility view is the more natural.
International justice in the absence of a global state
The Benign World should be able to organize itself into a global state: a quasi-state for example. “… there would be an entity capable of acting on behalf of the global society, although not perhaps with the effectiveness of a state.” (50)
If states in the state of nature are not in favourable circumstances, then all states have a duty to work together to create a global state (or quasi-state) that would be able to discharge the duty regarding basic needs.
1.    Global society is not “thick” enough to sustain duties of justice:
Some argue that there are only requirements of distributive justice within a group that shares a culture or set of “common meanings” (Walzer). Copp disagrees, but agrees that the basic need principle would not apply to the global population if that global population did not constitute a society. Requirements of global justice is thus a contingent matter.
2.    A global state would not be viable, or would not be a force for justice:
Nagel, Rawls, Kant agree that a global state is not possible. However, Copp only argues in favour of some kind of federation, to which Rawls and Kant agree that it might be conducive of world peace.
3.    Idea of a division of moral responsibility:

4.    Optimism about politics

Tagore — The Home and the World

The book is like a diamond sparkling many facettes. I retain the opposition between patriotism and cosmopolitanism – an opposition also noticed by Martha Nussbaum in her article “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism” published in the Boston Review, 1994.

“I am willing,” he said, “to serve my country; but my worship I reserve for Right which is far greater than my country. To worship my country as a god is to bring a curse upon it.”

A woman, Bimala, has been married to Nikhil, a notable, for nine years, when comes at home another man and friend of Nikhil, political radicalist Sandip. Bimala is soon metaphorically nicknamed “Queen Bee”, that is the queen of the national hive. She is tempted by the passion of patriotism represented by Sandip, whereas her husband represents a certain cosmopolitan wisdom, cold and dispassionate. The action mainly takes place at home, and the world outside the home is affected by “Queen”‘s wavering behaviour. She falls rapidly in intellectual and sentimental infatuation for Sandip. However, this leads her to actions she regrets. Attempting to correct the course of actions set, she sends her brother Amulya to death.

Not directly related to this novel, my personal concern is to investigate historically how this opposition came into being. In this book, patriotism is associated with sentiments, infatuation, sensuality, desire, conquering, lying, radical change, concrete and direct principles, partisanship, for the greater good of the community. Cosmopolitanism is associated with truth, reason, dispassionate reflection, abstract ideas, long-term goals, moral standards, stability, for the good of everyone. Where does this cosmopolitan understanding of patriotism come from? And inversely, where does a patriotic understanding of cosmopolitanism as betrayal of one’s homeland, etc. come from?

My contention is that these positions are discursively situated inside modernity, that they are related to nationalism, and that they appeared in the long aftermath of the French revolution.

Benhabib, Seyla — The Claims of Culture: Equality and Diversity in the Global Era

Benhabib, Seyla (2002), The Claims of Culture: Equality and Diversity in the Global Era, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Global integration is progressing parallel to social disintegration (separatisms, international terrorism, national revival). “Yet wether [sic] we call the current movements “struggles for recognition” (Charles Taylor, Nancy Fraser, and Axel Honneth), “identity/difference movements,” [sic] (Iris Young, William Connolly), or “movements for cultural rights and multicultural citizenship” (Will Kymlicka), they signal a new political imaginary that propels cultural identity issues in the broadest sense to the forefront of political discourse” (Benhabib, 2002: viii).

Object of the book: “In this book I address the challenges posed to the theory and practice of liberal democracies by the coexistence of these various movements in the same temporal and political space – the “strange multiplicity” or our times, as James Tully has called it (1995)” (Benhabib, 2002: viii).

Argument: the responses to these challenges by contemporary political theory have been prematurely normative, taking identity as a given and not as a practice. Identity should be understood with methodological constructivism.

Benhabib proposes “a deliberative democratic model that permits maximum cultural contestation within the public sphere, in and through the institutions and associations of civil society” (Benhabib, 2002: ix). She defends a constitutional and legal universalism at the level of the polity, and defends legal pluralism and institutional power-sharing through regional and local parliaments.

She distinguishes between democratic theorist and multiculturalist theorist, preferring the former to the latter because multiculturalist theorists tend to maintain the purity and distinctiveness of cultures, which is irreconcilable with democratic and epistemological considerations. Cultures are complex human practices of signification and representation. “Most democratic theorists welcome and support struggles for recognition and identity/difference movements to the degree which they are movements for democratic inclusion, greater social and political justice, and cultural fluidity” (Benhabib, 2002: ix).

“Against attempts by other theorists to sacrifice either cultural politics or normative universalism, I argue that a modernist view of cultures as contested creations of meaning and a universalist view of deliberative democracy complement one another” (Benhabib, 2002: x-xi).

Chapter 1: On the Use and Abuse of Culture

Culture and its permutations:

“The emergence of culture as an arena of intense political controversy is one of the most puzzling aspects of our current condition” (Benhabib, 2002: 1).

Culture has become synonymous with identity. Identity politics draw the state into culture wars.

But culture derives from the Latin root colare, associated with activities of preservation, of tending to and caring for. Romans viewed agriculture as the “cultural” activity par excellence. Western modernity, capitalist commodity economy, rationalized scientific worldview, and bureaucratic administrative control have altered the root meaning. (2).

Romantic period distinguished culture/civilisation (Herder):

Civilisation = material values and practices that are shared with other peoples and do not reflect individuality.

Culture = forms of expression through which the “spirit” of one people, as distinct from others, is voiced.

Totalitarian period created debates on mass culture = superficiality, homogeneity, reproducibility, lack of durability, lack of originality. Does not educate or shape to soul, does not express the spirit of people.

The anthropological egalitarian view of culture denouncing Eurocentric cultural presumptions.

Much contemporary cultural politics today is a mixture of anthropological view of the democratic equality of culture and the Romantic Herderian emphasis on each form’s irreducible uniqueness.

Faulty epistemology of culture, whether conservative or progressive = “reductionist sociology of culture” (Benhabib, 2002: 4):

1) Cultures are clearly delineable wholes

2) Cultures are congruent with population groups and that a noncontroversial description of the culture of a group is possible

3) Even if cultures and groups do not stand in one-to-one correspondence, this is no problem for politics and policy.

Social constructivism and its normative implications

“… I defend social constructivism as a comprehensive explanation of cultural differences and against attempts in normative political theory that reify cultural groups and their struggles for recognition” (Benhabib, 2002: 5). Some multiculturalisms reject cultural essentialism, but not always for the same reasons and not clear epistemology. Benhabib: Narrative view of actions and culture à Observer/participants distinction: observer imposes unity and coherence on cultures as observed entities; participants experience through shared, albeit contested and contestable, narratives + Bhabha distinguishes pedagogical/performative aspects of national narrative, and the two have to fit (Benhabib, 2002: 9). The student of human affairs tries to explain that.

Discourse ethics and multiculturalism

Norms of universal respect and egalitarian reciprocity = guiding lines of human interaction. They must be presupposed in some form for practical discourses (11). “Discourses are procedures of recursive validation [italic in text] through which abstract norms and principles are concretized and legitimized” (Benhabib, 2002: 12). “Practical discourses, in the broadest sense, include moral discourses about universal norms of justice, ethical discourses about forms of the good life, and political-pragmatic discourses about the feasible” (Benhabib, 2002: 12). These are dialogic processes.

Bhabha distinguishes universalist/substitutionalist universalisms (13-14):

Substitutionalist universalism = Kant & Rawls à subject matter of practical discourse is restricted to those principles of a just society, to which rational agents, placed behind the epistemic strictures of a “veil of ignorance”, would agree. Provides a more determinate and concrete content of choice and deliberation. It views individuals as generalized, not as concrete others.

Interactive universalism = all moral beings are potential moral conversation partners, not just rational beings. I can become aware of the otherness of others.

Narrativity and the self

We are born in a web of narratives, or thrown into these. To be and to become a self is to insert oneself into webs of interlocution.

“My approach to the politics of multiculturalism is defined by these theoretical commitments: the discourse theory of ethics; the dialogic and narrative constitution of the self; and the view of discourses as deliberative practices that center not only on norms of action and interaction, but also on negotiating situationally shared understandings across multicultural divides” (Benhabib, 2002: 16).

A dynamic model of identity groups

Contemporary discussion of these issues is often mired in two shortcomings: processes of group formation are not treated dynamically and effort is spent on identifying what a group is; this literature ignores processes through which existing social and cultural cleavages are transformed into political mobilization (17).

The democratic theorist is concerned with the public manifestation of cultural identities in civic spaces; the multiculturalist is interested in classifying and naming groups and then developing normative theories.

Universalist deliberative democracy model (19-20):

1. “egalitarian reciprocity. Members of cultural, religious, linguistic and other minorities must not, in virtue of their membership status, be entitled to lesser degrees of civil, political, economic, and cultural rights than the majority.

2. voluntary self-ascription. In consociationalist or federative multicultural societies, an individual must not be automatically assigned to a cultural, religious, or linguistic group by virtue of his or her birth. An individual’s group membership must permit the most extensive forms of self-ascription and self-identification possible. There will be many cases when such self-identifications may be contested, but the state should not simply grant the right to define and control membership to the group at the expense of the individual; it is desirable that at some point in their adult lives individuals be asked whether they accept their continuing membership in their communities of origin.

3. freedom of exit and association. The freedom of the individual to exit the ascriptive group must be unrestricted, although exit may be accompanied by the loss of certain kinds of formal and informal privileges. However, the wish of individuals to remain group members, even while outmarrying, must not be rejected; accommodations must be found for intergroup marriages and the children of such marriages.”

Rosenfeld, Sofia — Citizens of Nowhere in Particular: Cosmopolitanism, Writing and Political Engagement in Eighteenth-Century Europe

Work Cited
Rosenfeld, Sophia. “Citizens of Noweher in Particular: Cosmopolitanism, Writing and Political Engagement in Eighteenth-Century Europe.” National Identities 4, no. 1 (2002): 25-43.

Contention of the essay: the development of the conceptual space of political engagement among private subjects cannot be reduced to the creation of national loyalties. A body of literature existed, produced in the 18th century under the amorphous space of the transnational Republic of Letters, in which individuals transformed themselves into political spokesmen by de-situating themselves rhetorically.
These authors “encourage us to rethink our often resolutely presentist assumptions about the connection between geographical or familial rootedness, on the one hand, and the political identity associated with citizenship, on the other.” (27)
“For in the years immediately preceding the French Revolution, before the nation-state had become an entirely hegemonic paradigm even in Western Europe, it appears that the idea of political engagement was not yet necessarily dependent on one’s sense of belonging to a distinctive subgroup of humanity. Rather… public action often depended upon the opposite: deliberate deracination and namelessness on the part of the individual subject” (Rosenfeld 2002, 27).
Roots of participatory citizenship in the context of absolutism
Political decision-making and political expression were the monopoly of kings and their chief advisers. Hence a royal endorsement necessary to the publication of anything. It was especially true when it came to international affairs: the determination of foreign policy, until the outbreak of the French Revolution, was the exclusive prerogative of ministers and heads of state.
Yet, the second half of the 18th century saw a growing number of writers from an expanding range of social background. Especially an increasingly broad range of unofficial francophone literature found its way into circulation across Europe. The intention behind those texts was

“to influence a new entity: trans-European public opinion, a realm of philosophical contestation and, ultimately, political pressure established in good measure by writers themselves. Publication and response became a form of public action, a challenge to the absolute sovereignty of the state. And what these authors sought to communicate were generally not suggestions for improving a particular dynasty’s fortunes externally. Instead, they were alternative and often adversarial blueprints for developing international or global political systems that worked against specific royal ambitions and associated conceptions of society, especially on the part of absolute monarchies” (Rosenfeld 2002, 28).

Some of what the history of ideas have categorised as “peace plans” are famous (Penn, Saint-Pierre, Kant), many others are obscure or footnotes in this history.
What Rosenfeld wants to focus on is not so much the details of the content of such peace plans, but “how their individual authors justified writing these polemics, that is, making themselves into political actors, the precursors of participatory citizens, and intruding upon terrain from which they were, in both principle and practice, supposed to be excluded” (Rosenfeld 2002, 28-29).

“At issue is ultimately the question of authorial self-representation in an era before not only the concept of the nation but also the related vision of the author as public spokesman and participant in the business of rule had assumed the self-evident status that it has today” (Rosenfeld 2002, 29).

“Almost all the authors of these polemics call considerable attention to themselves as individuals. They make no effort to disguise the fact that the words on the page are the product of the minds of single, specific beings, writers, who are conveying their own, assume a distinctly modern, proprietary attitude towards their ideas…” (Rosenfeld 2002, 29).

Yet these writers, in describing themselves, insist on their lack of connections to the sphere of decision-making. Moreover, they forgo the chief marker of identity: the legal name. Many times the works were “anonymous”, although the author’s identity was an open secret. They identified themselves by their unbounded affection for humanity at large, calling themselves “Doctor Man’lover” or “a friend of mankind”. (29) They would also call themselves “simple citizen” or “an isolated human being”. “As the literary critic Thomas Keenan points out, the word ‘human’ has long stood, in contradistinction to proper nouns, as ‘the name of that which would precede geographical divisions and political articulations, of that which is by definition essentially unbordered’” (Rosenfeld 2002, 29).
The authors were both individuals with their own singular political thoughts, and individuals without particular connections to any family, location, history, or status.

“Local and national situatedness were here simultaneously subsumed, though not necessarily rejected, in favour of both a universal identity as a human and a personal one as a political actor” (Rosenfeld 2002, 30).

1.    Silence:
Ex: Nouvel essai sur le projet de la paix perpétuelle (Switzerland, 1788) by Antoine de Polier de Saint-Germain.
First, the author leaves off any reference to himself or precise location of the book. Then, he gradually reveals more and more about an alternative aspect of himself: his philosophical orientation and his motivation as a public spokesman on matters of international relations.
2.    Reference to another extra-historical authorial identity:
Ex: République universelle, ou l’Humanité ailée, réunie sous l’Empire de la Raison (André Guillaume Resnier).
During the « Year I » of reason appears the universal Republic. Written by the fictitious « Reinser II de Genève », he established himself as “an alternative moral elite distinguished by its compassion, public mindedness, and dedication to rationality.” (31) He depicts himself as a spokesman for “Reason” and a “martyr for truth”.

“What these texts share is a method of justifying both their production and their contents based on denying the reader’s expectations regarding the author’s familial, local, and even national identity” (Rosenfeld 2002, 31).

Of course these examples were neither unique at the time nor reserved to cosmopolitan themes. “But in the late eighteenth century, the employment of pseudonymous cosmopolitan monikers, in conjunction with expressions of fungible individuality, was especially associated with the publication of transgressive peace plans” (Rosenfeld 2002, 32).
The purpose of pseudonymity
The rhetorical stance of presenting oneself both in one’s singularity as an individual and one’s representativeness as a member of a boundaryless community of humanity served several purposes:
–    “Opened up a space for a new kind of non-nationally-specific political identity and engagement
–    “Rendered feasible a new type of secular political vision outside the related frameworks of both the nation-state and the locality”. (Rosenfeld 2002, 32)
1.    The uses of pseudonymity in the 18th century Republic of Letters
Primary reason for authorial disguise = practical: protect the writer as vulnerable being (censorship + preserving modesty and dignity/social stigma of publication).
But it did not protect completely. The other reason is that it “could potentially function as a form of liberation and, consequently, empowerment, especially for one who wrote from a marginal position in terms of sex, social status, geography, politics, religion, or some combination thereof” (Rosenfeld 2002, 32).
On the one hand, the author could deviate charges of immodesty upon himself to critics on the content of the writing. On the other, it could entail rhetorical benefits for the author as he/she tried to elevate the value of his public utterances as interventions in the public sphere. “And in the case of the peace plans under consideration here, their authors frequently found that they could use their humanitarian pseudonyms as a foundation for epistemological and moral empowerment for themselves as protocitizens, as well as for their political projects” (Rosenfeld 2002, 33).

2.    The effects of this practice on the transformation of the writer into a thoroughly public actor and an example for his own political theory
“… by explicitly drawing attention to their lack of connections or position, eighteenth-century authors could also confirm their radical autonomy and, hence, impartiality as intellectual voices, the fact that they were not beholden to any particular interest or any kind of received wisdom associated with any one faction” (Rosenfeld 2002, 33).
Ex: Ange Goudar noted that because of his status as an outsider he could consider the world of politics objectively, as a “knowable science”, rather than subjectively as a private matter.

“They could also assume a moral authority, and consequently, privilege for themselves that allowed them to overcome the normal obstacles to public expression and, as private individuals, do and say that to which they would ordinarily not be entitled” (Rosenfeld 2002, 33).

They could then strip kings and princes of their exclusive authority and prerogatives, and take their place to write on the public good of the world’s citizens.
Eurocentricism and francocentricism
The danger of this model of abstract universal human is the “Enlightenment thinkers’ difficulty recognizing and coming to terms with difference and heterogeneity, which is another way of saying their tendency to generalize from their own example” (Rosenfeld 2002, 34):
–    They were all men of considerable social and economic privilege
–    The Western European locus and bias is apparent

“The humanitarian cosmopolitanism of the eighteenth century is, in the end, a distinctive kind of local situatedness and privilege chiefly revelatory of membership in the francophone Republic of Letters” (Rosenfeld 2002, 35).

But very few of these plans project a unitary world state. Most are preserving local differences.

“Certainly, both Enlightenment epistemology and Enlightenment political theory depended heavily upon the idea of a uniform human nature. But attachment to this idea in no way meant that variation among humans was seen as impossible or even undesirable” (Rosenfeld 2002, 35).

Often they include “unquestioned francocentric assumptions about what progress towards modernity should entail” (Rosenfeld 2002, 36). But the more important is that they constitute “early attempts to grapple with the difficult task of balancing universalism and difference” (Rosenfeld 2002, 36).

“As such, they offer us an alternative way of conceptualising the roots of individual political engagement, a model tied exclusively neither to nation-state membership nor to the sentiment of national belonging” (Rosenfeld 2002, 36).

Changing name
At first the peace plans were an alliance among constitutional monarchs recognizing human rights in a pacific confederation. The culture of the Revolution led to plans linked to the idea of the republic understood as a form of government characterized by popular sovereignty, constitutional protections for the universal rights of man. A few revolutionary thinkers even proposed plans for federations of individuals, considered as citizens of the world.
At the same time, antipathy to the social hierarchy and the Church led to replace the name in the public sphere with a moniker emphasizing the individual’s political values or public actions. Those wanting to imagine new configurations beyond the national level continued to find it useful to adopt pseudonyms.
An extreme example of this is Cloots: from Prussian Klootz he Frenchifyed his name into Cloots. From baron von Klootz he adopted simply Cloots. From Jean-Baptiste, he unbaptised himself into Anacharsis, name of an ancient Sythian who left his native land to travel civilized countries in search of broader knowledge. He added “orator of the human race”.
“… it was a way to emphasise [sic] that one was both an individual, a single person free to identify oneself at will, and a public servant, writing (which is to say acting) in the name of and for the sake of the good of humanity alone” (Rosenfeld 2002, 38).

At the same time, the idea of the nation as a community of person grew. In 1795, an anonymous author (thought to be Scipione Piattoli), published a plan based on transnational cooperation referring to himself as “the old cosmopolitan Syrach”: in good measure because his views had become out-of-date.

“These examples have the potential to help us see the teleological and often anachronistic ways in which historians of modern Europe have frequently described the coming-into-existence of the citizen out of a locally and then nationally rooted being. In fact, as it turns out, political engagement did not always follow directly from the development of national identity in distance. The model of the abstract human, stripped of any relationship to any particular form of identification but understood as an individual, also provided a foundation for the emergence of the public actor, at least in the realm of rhetoric, before the era of a triumphant bourgeois liberalism in Europe – a situation which suggests that the history of conceptual globalism, needs, along with nationalism and localism, to be rethought” (Rosenfeld 2002, 39).

“Perhaps the key discovery of the authors of these odd peace plans of the late eighteenth century is that identity can be extremely fluid. After all, one can situate oneself not only locally or nationally but also cosmopolitically in multiple ways simply by manipulating that basic identifier that is one’s name. And it is, in part, as a result of this possibility that private persons first began to imagine something like global citizenship” (Rosenfeld 2002, 39).

Mortier — Le rêve universaliste de l’orateur du genre humain

Mortier, R. (2000). Le rêve universaliste de l'”Orateur du Genre humain”. In R. Mortier, Les Combats des Lumières (pp. 385-394). Paris: Aux amateurs de livres international.

The Universalist idea was not something new or invented in the eighteenth century. However, the transformation of the feeling of being human into concrete political and social systems is something that appeared in the eighteenth century, with the abbé Castel de Saint-Pierre’s Project of Perpetual Peace (Mortier, 2000: 385). The project was not very ambitious and only projected an arbitrary system by a superior international institution capable of imposing its decisions to the sovereign national institutions. Very interestingly, Rousseau’s protector, Mrs. Dupin, asked him to summarise his voluminous works. Although Rousseau found the project unrealistic, he nevertheless took it as the starting point of his own political reflexion and published an Extract in 1761 (Mortier, 2000).

This project, because it was unrealistic, discouraged for a long time any universalistic political vision. However, the French Declaration of the rights of Man and of the citizen renewed the Universalist ideal as it was directed to humanity in general.

Cloots was very impressed by this and made his mission to make the French revolution a model of political organisation to the world because of its principles and its example (Mortier, 2000: 388).

In February 1792 he published La République universelle, ou Adresse aux tyrannicides, par Anacharsis Cloots, orateur du genre humain. He does not believe in a federative system. He proposes a radical unification by a process of spontaneous adhesion (Mortier, 2000: 389). Believing in liberal economics, unity should prevail because of the advantages of being in such a “wide society”. Every man should benefit from the effects of the declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen, and for this we should build a universal republic on the ruins of the thrones. The will is one, action is one, because interest is one (Mortier, 2000: 390).

The republic may be built in several steps though, starting from France, diffusing through Europe. It is a gallocentric universalism (Mortier, 2000: 390). But it is gallocentric because France and Paris are the centres of freedom. Of course, everyone is sceptical towards any “imperialist” expansion from a particular country, even if it is for “freedom”. All things being equal, one can think of contemporary debate about “eurocentrism” and the western values dominating.

The way to achieve this is through propaganda and not violence, freedom is a plant that grows on every soil and if people are ignorant but free, minds should mature through books (Mortier, 2000: 392).

A unique soverign, universal will rise, he prophetises, “one common interest, one common law! One reason, one nation!” (Mortier, 2000: 392).

Cloots was not a realist, and he did not care about the political realities of his time. He made powerful enemies, chiefly Robespierre, who sent him to the guillotine 24 March 1794.

Fink, Gonthier Louis — “Cosmopolitisme” in Dictionnaire européen des lumières

Work Cited

Fink, Gonthier Louis (1997) “Cosmopolitisme.” In Dictionnaire européen des lumières, edited by Michel Delon, 277-279. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

« Le XVIIIe siècle est le siècle du cosmopolitisme » (L. Réau). (277)

«  En 1690, le Dictionnaire universel de Furetière, qui ne connaît pas encore le terme « cosmopolite », le définit indirectement à l’article « Patrie », en se référant à la tradition stoïcienne : « Un philosophe est partout en sa patrie. » Pour le Dictionnaire de Trévoux (1721) un cosmopolite est un « citoyen de l’univers », « un homme qui nulle part n’est étranger ». Cette définition repose sur l’universalité de la nature humaine. Mais s’intéresser à l’homme en général n’implique pas nécessairement ouverture sur le monde, car cela peut signifier qu’on oublie la diversité du genre humain ; et la perception de l’altérité peut soit impliquer la tolérance, voire une fraternité active, soit conduire à une vue manichéenne, traduire aussi bien une indifférence sceptique que la curiosité ou la soif d’exotisme. Quand le Dictionnaire de l’Académie française (1762) déclare qu’un cosmopolite est « celui qui n’adopte point de patrie, […] n’est pas un bon citoyen », il reflète la méfiance que suscitait alors le cosmopolitisme. » (Fink 1997, 277)

Du narcissisme au cosmopolitisme

« Grâce à l’hégémonie politique et culturelle de la France de Louis XIV et même de Louis XV, Versailles et Paris devinrent « le modèle des nations étrangères ». » (Fink 1997, 277)

Cependant, l’Europe française qui reposait sur « l’universalité » de la culture et de la langue française (Rivarol), ne relève que partiellement du cosmopolitisme :

  • Parce que les tenants du classicisme français confondaient leur modèle et l’universalisme, ce qui leur permettait de juger les autres nations selon leurs critères. Narcissisme français et curiosité pour l’étranger.
  • Parce que l’universalisme était amputé de sa dimension historique : en admettant que les mentalités étaient conditionnées par le climat et l’histoire, il légitimait l’opposition entre civilisés et barbares.

Ainsi au début le XVIIIe n’était guère plus cosmopolite que le XVIIe.

Ce sont les journaux qui rendaient compte de ce qui étaient digne de la curiosité des Gens de lettre. La république des lettres élargissait l’horizon national de ses membres.

« Tout comme Bayle, Beausobre déclara : « Le sage doit être Cosmopolyte, […] il ne doit avoir de patrie que la ou règnent le bon sens et la raison, et de compatriotes, que ceux qui, comme lui, s’attachent à la recherche du vrai » (Mercure de France, 1750). » (Fink 1997, 277)

Les revues savantes trouvèrent leur prolongement dans les hebdomadaires moraux adressés aux classes moyennes.

Le cosmopolitisme se marque par le « Grand Tour » des aristocrates voyageant en Europe.

Confrontations avec d’autres civilisations

La documentation mise à disposition sur les autres pays étaient importante.

On confrontait l’Europe avec la diversité du genre humain. « Le changement saute aux yeux dès que l’on compare le Discours sur l’histoire universelle de Bossuet, confiné au monde judéo-chrétien et classique, avec l’Essai sur les mœurs de Voltaire, qui, brisant le carcan de la chronologie biblique, commence son histoire universelle avec la Chine » (Fink 1997, 278)

Considérées comme accessoires les différences entre les hommes parurent alors à certains essentielles. S’opposent deux visions, toutes deux eurocentriques :

  1. Sauvage barbare
  2. Mythe du bon sauvage (le barbare est l’homme civilisé)

« Avec le Discours sur les sciences et les arts de J.-J. Rousseau le changement de paradigme devint effectif : non la civilisation mais la nature devait servir de critère » (Fink 1997, 278).

La Chine obligea l’Europe à reconnaître une autre civilisation. Sensibles à son ancienneté, les jésuites en gommèrent l’altérité, estompant les différences entre confucianisme et christianisme.

« Le cosmopolitisme du XVIIIe siècle eut au fond deux faces : la curiosité pour ce qui est autre, exotique, avec au mieux l’acceptation de l’altérité, ce dont les jésuites ont donné l’exemple ; par ailleurs, expression de l’insatisfaction au sein de l’Europe, l’autre est proposé comme modèle avec, en contraste, la critique de la patrie pour l’inciter à faire des réformes, procédé dont se sont servis Voltaire, Raynal et bien d’autres philosophes » (Fink 1997, 279).

Dans les Lettres Persanes, Montesquieu propose une troisième voie en contre-pied du narcissisme et de l’ethnocentrisme : faire observer les gestes de la France par un étranger qui dans une optique naïve trouve étrange ce qui paraît familier à l’autochtone et démasque les absurdités et incohérences. Genre satirique qui apprit à l’Europe à relativiser ses critères.

Apogée et crise du cosmopolitanisme

Favorisé par la franc-maçonnerie qui appelait à former une grande république universelle basée sur l’égalité et la fraternité, le cosmopolitisme fut à la mode entre 1730 et 1760. Selon Helvétius, plus les nations devenaient éclairées, plus elles s’ouvraient les unes aux autres (De l’Esprit, 1758).

Critique de Rousseu, Palissot et de Belloy.. Lessing déplore que le cosmopolitisme efface les différences nationales. Herder, Wieland et Kant se distancèrent du csomopolitisme trop politique de certains encyclopédistes pour plaider une évolution lente et organique dans le concert des nations européennes.

O’Brien, Karen — Narratives of Enlightenment

9780521465335Introduction: cosmopolitanism, narrative, history

Cosmopolitan history:

“‘Cosmopolitanism’ is no longer a term much favoured by intellectual historians: as an idea, it seems to lack intellectual content; as a category of political thought, it has no referent. [footnote: “the last investigation of this idea was Thomas J. Schlereth]. The term is occasionally invoked by literary and cultural historians of the eighteenth century in connection with neoclassical notions of taste, the language of bourgeois political aspirations or aristocratic consumer preferences. [footnote: for example Gerald Newman The Rise of English Nationalism 1987; J. Pappas “The Revolt of the Philosophes against Aristocratic Tastes”, Culture and Revolution by Dukes and Dunkley, 1990]. I have revived the term for the purposes of this study because it simultaneously encapsulates an attitude of detachment towards national prejudice (often described as an ‘impartial’ or ‘philosophical’ attitude in other studies of these historians), and an intellectual investment in the idea of a common European civilisation” (O’Brien 1997, 2).

Voltaire understood this civilisation in cultural rather than political terms. Voltaire mounted a cosmopolitan critique of his own national history (siècle de Louis XIV, siècle de Louis XV) which he re-evaluated in his general history of the world Essai sur les moeurs.

“Cosmopolitanism is thus a point of orientation for these historians, and, frequently, an impetus to irony at the expense of the partialities and accidents which lie behind those reassuring stories which nations tell to themselves. It is also, in the work of some eighteenth-century historians, an identity-prescription for their readers: Europe, it is implied, must remain part of the structure of their self-awareness as French, British or American subjects or citizens. (3)

“A national self, it is often held, needs a negative counter-image of the ‘other’ to give it definition and psychological purchase… Yet, as I shall argue, such straightforward antinomies of patriotism and cosmopolitanism appear to dissolve when tested against the work of some of the eighteenth century’s most prestigious and popular national historians” (O’Brien 1997, 4)

18th-century historians wrote in a fundamentally literary way. “The rhetorical model, in particular, helps to explain the nature of the presence of eighteenth-century historians in their own texts both as political persuaders and orchestrators of their readers’ aesthetic responses. History was also understood in this period, in related but non-rhetorical ways, as a form of spectacle designed to awaken the imagination and stimulated the sensibility.” (7)

National contexts:

“The cosmopolitan approach to questions of national history in the writings of Voltaire, Hume, Robertson, Gibbon and Ramsay updated and put a new polemical spin on older, humanist notions of the European inheritance of a common cultural identity from the ancient Roman world (the translatio studii)” (12-13).

“My chapter on Voltaire explores the literary and ideological backgrounds to these innovations, and explains how Voltaire’s rejection of traditional dynastic and public law-based discourses of French nationality opened the way for a new critical and cosmopolitan reading of French and, later, global history according to aesthetic rather than political norms.” (13)

voltaire1Voltaire’s neoclassical poetics of history

“As meta-historical investigations of the cognitive problems of retelling the past, they contribute something to contemporary French philosophical debate… It was the thematic concerns of Voltaire’s histories, which centred upon the evolution and existence of a unique, common European civilisation, that particularly attracted an international readership.” (22)

At the time, history was depreciated by sceptics or Pyrrhonians rejecting Descartes’ rationalist solutions.

“Voltaire’s solution to the poverty of national history and to the philosophical depreciation of history was… to effect a closer rapprochement between history and literature” (26) “By arranging his histories within identifiable literary structures…, Voltaire hoped to annex similar prestige to history. Voltaire also imported from neoclassical theory the notion of ‘vraisemblance’ which encapsulated the moral and aesthetic requirement that literature should treat only of the natural and probable, and never of the fantastic, trivial or debased.” (26) “Voltaire also embraced the ethical function performed by neoclassical literature; like poetry, history must assert civilised standards, and harmonise moral, social and aesthetic values.”

The narrative of Europe

The Essai sur les mœurs et l’esprit des nations“explores the contradictory relationship between the arts, the philosophical spirit, and the evolution of civilisation in Europe. Moreover, it attempts to do so in ways which will erode national partialities… Despite its declared ambition to supply an overview of the development of civilisation, the Essai is essentially an agglomeration of a number of national histories held together by a (sometimes fragile) narrative thread… The unity of these national histories, Voltaire explains in the summary ‘Résumé de toute cette histoire’ (1756), is to be found, not at the level of master narrative, but in the pre-cognitive drive to civilisation inherent in all men and women:

Au milieu de ces saccagements et de ces destructions que nous observons dans l’espace de neuf cent années, nous voyons un amour de l’ordre qui anime en secret le genre humain, et qui a prévenu sa ruine totale. C’est un des ressorts de la nature, qui reprend toujours sa force : c’est lui qui a formé le code des nations. (II, 808: 1756, XVI, 149)

Man’s creative love of order, which has affinities with the historian’s own artistic quest for form in variety, fashions and sustains the delicate and slow process of civilisation: ‘Il est aisé de … conclure … avec quelle lenteur la raison humaine se forme’ (II, 87: 1756, XII, 315).” (46)

“Avec quelle lenteur, avec quelle difficulté le genre humain se civilise, et la société se perfectionne !” (II, 724 : 1756, XIV, 231) 46)

« L’empire de la coutume est bien plus vaste que celui de la nature ; il s’étend sur les mœurs, sur tous les usages ; il répand la variété sur la scène de l’univers : la nature y répand l’unité ; elle établit partout un petit nombre de principes invariables : ainsi le fonds est partout le même, et la culture produit des fruits divers. (1756, II, 810) (47)

In Voltaire’s account, an Enlightenment narrrative on the rise of Europe, the Church is playing a role in the civilising process “on sentait qu’elle … était faite pour donner des leçons aux autres”) and an intermediate power in the states where it operates : « un frein qui retienne les souverains » (I, 492, 529 : 1756, XI, 263) (48-49)

A large part is left to non-Western accounts, particularly China, and Japan.

“Nos peuples occidentaux ont fait éclater dans toutes ces découvertes une grande supériorité d’esprit et de courage sur les notions orientales… Mais la nature leur avait donné sur nous un avantage qui balance tous les nôtres : c’est qu’elles n’avaient nul besoin de nous, et que nous avions besoin d’elles. (II, 325 : 1756, XIII, 207)”

The East is essential to the self-understanding of the West.


“As he retouched the Essai, Voltaire became more preoccupied with the ironies of causality in history, and less interested in its (ultimately relatively civilised) outcome. Narrative connectives are traded for a satirical sense of necessity. The rudimentary causal coherence, which Voltaire originally found in the history of the world, starts to look like a Panglossian fantasy. Voltaire now sees only an unpredictable game of consequences (the word he uses to convey this is ‘enchaînement’). François I’s death of the new world disease, syphilis, is presented, in 1761, as an example of this ironically treacherous ‘enchaînement’:

C’est ainsi que les évènements son enchaînés: un pilote génois donne un univers à l’Espagne ; la nature a mis dans les îles de ces climats lointains un poison qui infecte les sources de la vie ; et il faut qu’un roi de France en périsse. (II, 201)

The term ‘enchaînement’ conveys an idea of human helplessness in the face of meaningless fatality : ‘il paraît un enchaînement fatal des causes qui entrainent les hommes comme les vents poussent les sables et les flots’ (II, 784: 1756, XIV, 319). The use of the term ‘enchaînement’ also carries with it an indirect attack on Catholic providential history of the kind most famously exemplified by Bossuet’s Discours sur l’histoire universelle (1681). Bossuet uses the term ‘enchaînement’ to denote the divine order in which God simulates logical cause-effect relationships in order to give man a sense of the moral intelligibility of the world. Or as Bossuet phrases it:

Ce mesme Dieu qui a fait l’enchaisnement de l’Univers … a voulu aussi que le cours des choses humaines eust sa suite et ses proportions.

Voltaire’s use of the word ‘enchainement’ suggests a parodic reworking of theocentric universal history. Bossuet’s God, by acting directly upon human passions, produces a historical order identical to the providential order, whereas Voltaire’s ‘enchaînement’ reveals a moral sequence discontinuous with or in ironic relation to the historical one.” (52-53).

Hazard, Pierre – Cosmopolite

jean-baptiste_van_mour_006Historiographie du mot “cosmopolite.”

Hazard, Pierre (1930) “Cosmopolite.” In Mélanges d’histoire littéraire générale et comparée offerts à Fernand Baldensperger, 354-364. Paris: Libraire ancienne Honoré Champion.


Apparition au XVIe siècle : 1560 Guillaume Postel De la République des Turcs et, là où l’occasion s’offrera,

des mœurs et des lois de tous muhamedistes, par Guillaume Postel, cosmopolite. L’auteur veut enrichir les

connaissances du roi dauphin sur les turcs :

« Pour autant donc qu’on ne peut, venant à l’effet de la concorde du monde (pour la paix universelle,

duquel je me nomme Cosmopolite, désirant le voir accordé, sous la Couronne de France), aucunement

parler par raison avec l’ennemy, sans congnoistre tout son estat comme luy ; et que la plus grande

puissance soit en religion, soit en armes, qui donc fut, est l’Ismaélique ; et qu’entre les Ismaéliques,

c’est la Turquesque, je vous en donne ici la congnoissance ». (354)

Henri Estienne s’en sert sous la forme cosmopolitain dans ses Deux dialogues du nouveau langage

françois italinizé (1578) : il l’oppose à ceux qui dépassent le cercle tropetriot des gens de cour :

« Vous vous accoutumerez tant à ce jargon de la cour, que quand vous la voudrez quitter,

vous ne pourrez pas quitter pareillement son jargon: mais serez en danger d’estre en risée à

plusieurs cosmopolitains, qui ne vivent nine parlent courtisanesquement ; et toutefois savent

comment il faut vivre et comment il faut parler. »

Au XVIIe siècle le mot apparaît par détours : Lenglet du Fresnoy dans son Histoire de la philosophie

hermétique nous raconte les aventures d’un Anglais, ou Écossais, Alexandre Sethon ou Sidon le Cosmopolite.

Après la mort de Sethon, Michel Sendivogius fit imprimer à Prague le traité du Cosmopolite sur ses papiers :

Traité du cosmopolite, où, après avoir donné une idée d’une société de philosophes, on explique dans plusieurs

lettres de cet auteur la théorie et la pratique des vérités hermétiques.

Il ne s’agit que d’une apparition isolée et le dictionnaire de l’Académie de 1694 n’enregistre pas le mot. Il est

curieux que le mot apparaisse au moment le moins cosmopolite de notre histoire. « Quand on connaîtra mieux

le monde de l’hermétisme, et toute cette vie obscure qui ne cesse de s’agiter dans les profondeurs de la conscience

européenne et française, on découvrira sans doute de nombreux apports, non moins surprenants »

(Hazard 1930, 356).

Sa fortune date du XVIIIe siècle.

Trévoux dans son dictionnaire de 1721 à l’article cosmopolitain, cosmopolitaine :

“Cosmopolita, cosmopolitanus. On dit quelquefois en badinant, pour signifier un home qui n’a pas de

demeure fixe, ou bien un homme qui n’a pas de demeure fixe, ou bien un homme qui nulle part n’est

étranger. Il vient de χάσμας, le monde, et πόλις, ville, et signifie un homme dont tout le monde est la ville

ou la patrie. Un ancien philosophe étant interrogé d’où il était répondit : je suis un cosmopolite, c’est-à-dire

citoyen de l’univers. L’auteur inconnu d’un excellent traité de chimie, intitulé Lumen chymicum, s’est donné

le nom de cosmopolitain.

qu’on dît cosmopolitain » (Hazard 1930, 356).

On dit ordinairement cosmopolite; et comme on dit néapolitain et constantinopolitain, l’analogie demanderait

L’édition de 1771 fait prévaloir l’usage de « cosmopolite » sur « cosmopolitain ». L’allusion au philosophe est Diogène

tel que rapporté par Diogène Laerce.

Si le mot a désormais conquis droit de cité ce n’est pas qu’il apparaisse avec fréquence.

fougeretcosmopolitanIl faut tenir grand compte dans l’histoire du mot et des idées qu’il exprime le livre publié en 1751 par Fougeret de

Montbron Le cosmopolite ou le citoyen du monde. L’ouvrage eut un succès, et Byron l’utilisera plus tard. Voyageur,

il devient cosmopolite par pessimisme et scepticisme. « Un cosmopolite se pourra être un simple dilettante ; mais

aussi un blasé, voire un cynique, qui dédaigne de s’attacher à quelque terre que ce soit, parce qu’il méprise tout

l’univers » (Hazard 1930, 358).

Mais par une interprétation différente, et que l’on voit naître plus tard, un cosmopolite peut être une grande âme,

assez généreuse pour choisir l’humanité toute entière. Ainsi Jean-Jacques Rousseau dans son Discours sur

l’origine de l’inégalité parmi les hommes (1755) :

“Le droit civil étant ainsi devenu la règle commune des citoyens, la loi de nature n’eut plus lieu qu’entre

les diverses sociétés où, sous le nom de droit des gens, elle fut tempérée par quelques conventions tacites

pour rendre le commerce possible et suppléer à la commisération naturelle, qui, perdant de société à société

presque toute la force qu’elle avait d’homme à homme, ne réside plus que dans quelques grandes âmes

cosmopolites qui franchissent les barrières imaginaires qui séparent les peuples et qui, à l’exemple de l’Être

souverain qui les a créées, embrassent tout le genre humain dans leur bienveillance.” (Hazard 1930, 358-359).

« On peut fixer à 1760 et aux années suivantes le temps où les Français se plaisent à répéter le mot, en lui donnant

tantôt un sens péjoratif, tantôt un sens élogieux, et en l’enrichissant de quelques nuances supplémentaires »

(Hazard 1930, 359). Rousseau change d’avis, peut-être parce que le cosmopolite est adopté par les encyclopédistes.

Le mot n’est pas admis dans les 2e (1718), 3e (1740), édition du dictionnaire de l’Academie qui l’accepte dans la

4e (1762) :

“Cosmopolite. S. m. Celui qui n’adopte point de patrie. Un cosmopolite n’est pas un bon citoyen »

(Hazard 1930, 360).

1762 : Lemercier de la Rivière Ordre naturel et essentiel des libertés politiques :

« Ce décroissement sera d’autant plus prompt, que l’industrie est cosmopolite (t. II, p. 518). Ce terme de

cosmopolite ne doit pas être regardé comme une injure ; je parle ici des choses, et non des personnes, de

la profession du commerçant et point du tout de ceux qui l’exercent (p. 563). » (360).

En 1798 elle ajoute à cette même définition la mention « citoyen du monde ».

Les Philosophes, comédie en trois actes 1760 :

« Cydalise :

Monsieur Dortidius, dit-on quelques nouvelles ?

Dortidius :

Je ne m’occupe point des rois, de leurs querelles ;

Que me fait le succès d’un siège ou d’un combat ?

Je laisse à nos oisifs ces affaires d’État.

Je m’embarasse peu du paus que j’habite :

Le véritable sage est un cosmopolite. » (359)

Rousseau dans Émile, I : « Défiez-vous de ces cosmopolites qui vont chercher au loin dans leurs livres des

devoirs qu’ils dédaignent de remplir autour d’eux. »

L’Anglois à Paris. Le Cosmopolisme, publié à Londres…. (1770) par V. D. Musset Pathay : « Ce cosmopolite

n’aspire nullement à nos honneurs littéraires ; son objet est rempli s’il contribue à maintenir l’intelligence entre

des nations moins alliées qu’ennemies, et qui pourroient s’aimer autant qu’elles se craignent et s’estiment ». (361)

La révolution l’utilise et il devient le titre d’un journal, de décembre 1791 à 1792 : Le Cosmopolite, journal

historique, politique, littéraire.

Seul jusqu’ici l’auteur de L’Anglois à Paris avait risqué l’expression « cosmopolisme ». Louis Sébastien Mercier

le reprend dans sa Néologie, ou vocabulaire des mots nouveaux, a renouveler, ou pris dans des acceptions nouvelles. An IX-1801 :

“Cosmopolisme. Il faut aimer un lieu; l’oiseau lui-même, qui a en partage le domaine des airs, affectionne

tel creux d’arbre ou de rocher. Celui qui est atteint de cosmopolisme est privé des plus doux sentiments

qui appartiennent au cœur de l’homme.

Cosmopoliter. Parcourir l’univers.”

Qui croirait que l’on peut exercer à Paris le Cosmopolisme, encore mieux que dans le reste de l’univers ?

Sous sa plume apparait pour la première fois l’expression cosmopolitisme littéraire : lire les grands auteurs étrangers.

Il révèle la Jeanne d’Arc de Schiller.

Mais le mot déplait déjà à l’Empereur. Après 1815, le mot se rencontre partout.

Avenel’s biography of Anacharsis Cloots

Avenel, Georges (1865), Anacharsis Cloots: L’orateur du genre humain, Paris : Librairie internationale.

cloots01This is one of the very first biography existing on this not so well-known history character of the French Revolution, Anacharsis Cloots. The merit of this book is its weakness: the tone in which it is written. The author is writing in a romantic apologetic tone, which hampers a reflective and critical appraisal of Cloot’s writings and actions. On the other hand, it blows life into a colourful character with an original and synthesising thought. And what a life! Until it was cut short by the revolutionary guillotine, his Prussian origins causing him suspicions of espionage and conspiracy against the Revolution.

Summary abstracts:

Cloots, away from France for some time, came back in 1789 and arrived in Paris 4 August. He saw the national assembly and was taken by enthusiasm. He saw in it the real ecumenical assembly, presided by common sense that will eliminate all the canons of the so-called universal conciliabules (Avenel, 1865: 131).

He claimed that the Assembly should be in Paris, and not in Versailles, “the glory of the eighteenth century is to have created the city” (Avenel, 1865: 137). Other were opposed because the country would not accept Parisian law. He answered “you will all accept it, you, France, and the Universe. Paris is the capital-city of the globe.” (Avenel, 1865: 138)

22 May 1790 a decree by the Assembly gave the nation the right to declare war and peace. Cloots acclaimed this decree because it was signifying the end of the secrecy of alliances in cabinets, of Westphalian treaties and this kind of diplomacy (Avenel, 1865: 175). Paradoxically (for our contemporary eyes) it is the idea of the nation that gave him the idea of the ideal of solidarity of people: if people of the French provinces could unite to form a French nation, calling themselves “brothers,” why not the peoples of the world?

The Parisian commune decreed 5 June 1790 to ask the Assembly for a Parisian federation of France on the Bastille Day 14 July 1790. This event made Cloots dream of a Parisian federation not only of all France but of the whole universe. He wanted to make the same demand but of humankind, including refugees of all countries who had been proscribed from the city (Avenel, 1865: 175-176).

This is what he did, quite famously, on 19 June, Day of the anniversary of the “serment du Jeu de Paume,” “Embassy of humankind,” when he entered the Assembly, or the “ecumenical council of reason”, with a delegation representing humankind, and him being its orator (Avenel, 1865: 177). They were 36 representing “humanity”: Englishmen, Prussians, Sicilians, Dutchmen, Russians, Poles, Germans, Swedes, Italians, Spaniards, peoples from some of the French provinces, Indians, Arabs and Chadians.

He declared that the party on Bastille Day will not only be the one of Frenchmen but also the one of Humankind. The wakening of the French people has been heard away and has awakened other peoples from a long slavery. The wisdom of the decrees voted by the children of France give troubles to despots and hope for nations. Sovereignty resides in the people, but the people is everywhere under the control of despots who consider themselves sovereigns. (Avenel, 1865: 183-184).

Baron Menou answered to him that he proved that all other nations equally own the progress one nation makes in philosophy and the knowledge of human rights. Therefore, the civic national party shall include any free man who wants to join.

From then on is the nickname “Orator of humankind”. Cloots explains that an orator of humankind is “a man penetrated by love for human dignity;  an orator with a scorching love for freedom and who inflame with horror against tyrants; it is a man who, after having received the sanction of his universal apostolate inside the constituting body of the universe, only devotes himself to the free defence of all the million slaves…” He will exile himself from his native land to stay in the capital of independence. His mission will only come to an end when oppressors of the humankind will be overthrown. (Avenel, 1865: 188-189)

He changed his first name Jean-Baptiste because of its Christian origin into Anacharsis, the name of a young Greek philosopher, originally a Scythe who travelled from North to educate himself in Attic and Ionia. He also Frenchifyed his surname as a tribute to France, the country in which freedom was born and from where it should be spread to the world.

Bélissa, Marc: Les patriotes européens et l’ordre républicain cosmopolitique 1795-1802

9782915596106fsBélissa analyses the conquests made by the new French Republic in Italy (an IV-V), Switzerland (an VI-VII), Holland (an III), and Belgium (an III-IV). These countries are called “sister-Republics.” Patriots in these “sister-Republics” are European militants and support the French Republic, at first, in its fight against monarchical Europe (91).
These patriots have conscious to be part of a “republican order” of free peoples, thought of as the first “truly European political, social and cultural project” (92). This project must realise the cosmopolitan imperative of the revolution: a peaceful order based on the rights of nations against tyranny (92).
In the first days of conquests, numerous voices advise to behave as occupant armies and seize everything possible (93). To justify France’s domination over Belgium and Holland, a brutal vision of law is expressed: the peoples are incapable of revolutionising themselves; they have no autonomy or Enlightenment (93). The Republic offers them rational administration and the end of archaic and feudal institutions; order and progress justifying domination (93). Moreover, France cannot let nations escape her orbit and risk an ingratitude characteristic to all peoples (93). “… the independence of the peoples must always be under control to stay compatible with the prosperity and power of the French Republic” (94).

“Republicanism is thus conceived not as an ethical and cosmopolitan model but as an institutional administrative structure and universalisable under the direction of the French power” (94).

The Directoire is then putting itself in a paradoxical situation of putting these republics in the impossibility to defend the European order by refusing local free and revolutionary republicanism (94).
Still the rhetoric of the liberation of peoples does not disappear under the Directoire and all republicans consider that France must aid to the propagation of the principles of property and liberty (95). But to free the peoples does not necessarily mean to respect the free expression of their sovereignty (95).
France wants to propagate the principles of the revolution, but does not want to have revolutions. It is a republican order that she wants to encourage, a “Republic without revolution” (96). In order to achieve this objective, France treat the republics as “executives” and not “partners”, and does not hesitate to make alliances with princes and kings against the republics to achieve this order (97).
The project for a republican order under the Directoire is thus not a federation as the enlightened philosophers conceived, but an hegemony, dominating without any institutional compensation (97).
Bonaparte’s coup-d’Etat was at first well received by the republics, as putting an end to the instrumentalisation achieved by the Directoire. However, soon it will be obvious that the revolution and France are no longer a universalist reference for humanity (105).


Bélissa, Marc (2005) “Les patriotes européens et l’ordre républicain cosmopolitique 1795-1802.” In Cosmopolitismes, patriotismes: Europe et Amériques 1773-1802, edited by Marc Bélissa and Bernard Cottret, 91-107. Rennes: Les Perséides.

Dédéyan: le cosmopolitisme européen sous la révolution et l’empire

Dédéyan, Charles (1976) Le cosmopolitisme européen sous la Révolution et l’Empire. 2 vols. Paris: Société d’édition d’enseignement supérieur.

sabine_womenOne of the rare books of intellectual history about cosmopolitanism in Europe. Written in French, it is focusing on the periods immediately after the Enlightenment: the French Revolution and the first Empire under Napoléon Bonaparte. It is interesting and worth reading for students of cosmopolitanism in two respects. First, it acknowledges the apparition of the word ‘cosmopolitanism’ in French in 1863. The date is very interesting because it is probably not coincidental. My contention is that cosmopolitanism appeared as a conscious idea described by a word only because nationalism became socially embedded. Nationalism constructed an opposite — cosmopolitanism — even though nationalism and cosmopolitanism were originally one and the same before and during the revolution. Second, it is a good introduction to several major European authors and their thought in cosmopolitan terms.

However, the books starts with no definition of ‘cosmopolitanism’ and accepts the historically given concept of opposition to nationalism.

Here follows a summary of some of the main elements concerning cosmopolitanism in France.

Guillaume Postel dans sa République des Turcs a employé pour la première fois en 1560 le mot cosmopolite, que Robert Estienne a introduit sous la forme cosmopolitain. Le mot cosmopolitisme n’existe que depuis 1863. Cependant, on n’a pas attendu cette date pour faire acte de cosmopolitisme : ne pas s’enfermer dans son pays, ne pas limiter ses amitiés et inimitiés à ses compatriotes (Erasme, Montaigne, Sir Philip Sidney, au XVIe, Descartes, Grotius, Saint-Evremond ou Pierre Bayle au XVIIe). (3)

C’est au 18eme siècle que ce cosmopolitanisme va devenir plus général et plus littéraire par la vie des salons et les voyages des gens du monde. Mais le mouvement date du XVIIe. (4)

La France aide à l’épanouissement du cosmopolitisme en tournant ses regards vers l’étranger, avec son prestige européen, et grâce à sa langue universellement répandue. Beaucoup d’œuvres étrangères se propagent en Europe grâce à leurs traductions françaises. (4-5) La France et Paris en particulier deviennent le centre de la vie culturelle. (5-13)

Les cosmopolites marquants


Cosmopolite littéraire de l’ancien régime.


rivarol_antoine1Discours sur l’Universalité de la Langue française : « Ce qui n’est pas clair n’est pas français ». Un auteur étranger traduit en français a sa pensée clarifiée et expliquée avec précision. Le français est fait pour le commerce des idées et la conversation. Il a « la probité de son génie ». Par son caractère rationnel, social, sa précision, le français n’est pas seulement national, il a une vocation cosmopolite et humaine. (280)

Il approfondira ses idées dans le Discours préliminaire et le Prospectus.

Il laisse après sa mort un opuscule inédit : Souveraineté du peuple.


Les idées philosophiques et politiques

Les idées philosophiques :

1. Le kantisme

Face à l’ancienne philosophie se dresse le criticisme.

2. L’éclectisme

Les milieux cosmopolites ont une sorte d’éclectisme

3. La pensée maistrienne

Joseph de Maistre veut l’union de la science et de la foi.

« … sous l’influence des occultistes, des illuminés, des théosophes de la fin du XVIIIe siècle, comme sous l’influence de philosophies plus constructives, le cosmopolitisme fait une place importante aux formes irrationnelles de la pensée, sans que les divergences cessent d’être profondes, d’un centre à l’autre, d’un homme à l’autre. » (609).

Les idées politiques

1. Diversité des idées politiques

En littérature deux groupes de cosmopolites se sont distincts : les pro et les anti. On se brouille quand à l’attitude à avoir face à la révolution : restauration ou non.

Portalis dans une lettre du 23 septembre 1799 : « Il ne s’agit pas uniquement de rétablir, il faut régénérer, il faut s’occuper des hommes encore plus que des choses et créer pour ainsi dire un nouveau peuple. » (610)

Montlosier : Vues sommaires sur les moyens de paix pour la France, pour l’Europe, pour les émigrés.

Dédéyan discusses primarily the opposition between monarchists and constituants.

Bertrand de Molleville dans ses Mémoires secrets témoigne de sa méfiance à l’égard des institutions anglaises : « les climats d’Angleterre et de France, les mœurs et le caractère des deux nations sont absolument opposés, et le bon sens indique que les lois doivent, pour être bonnes, s’adapter à ces nuances. » (611)

2. Les idées de Bonald

louis_de_bonaldRéfute Montesquieu et Rousseau en s’inspirant de Leibnitz. 1796 : Théorie du pouvoir.

Contre Montesquieu : C’est du mot constitution qu’il part et pour lui le mot constitution est « ce qui fait la substance d’un corps ». « L’homme ne peut donc pas plus donner une constitution à la société religieuse ou politique qu’il ne peut donner la pesanteur aux corps, ou l’étendue à la matière. » (612-13) Libre à Montesquieu de faire des inventaires et de voir les différences : c’est une conception « végétale ».

3. L’originalité de Mounier

jean-joseph_mounier1795 Adolphe ou principes élémentaires de politique et résultats de la plus cruelle des expériences : combat les fausses maximes du contrat social.

Distinction entre sauvages et civilisés, mais l’état de barbarie peut toujours revenir. (614-615).

Propriété individuelle est préconisé, mais les riches auront un devoir envers les pauvres.

Il limite la souveraineté du peuple dans son origine : « Lorsqu’on affirme que la souveraineté dans son origine émane du consentement du peuple, on exprime une vérité de la plus grande évidence, mais d’une manière qui la rend susceptible d’une fausse interprétation. Au lieu de parler du consentement du peuple, il serait plus exact de parler de celui des premiers facteurs du corps social. Ils ne pouvaient être qu’un petit nombre puisque sans avoir encore des chefs, ils étaient parvenus à s’entendre et à partager la même résolution. » (615)

La souveraineté ainsi limitée ne peut être maintenue que dans ces limites. Il y a des hommes qui sont en dehors du suffrage et il ne faut pas y faire accéder une « multitude aveugle ». De là vient l’idée du suffrage censitaire au XIXe siècle. (615)

L’égalité entre hommes n’existe pas, elle ne peut être entière et parfaite que pour les droits de sécurité et de sûreté.

On Nussbaum, cosmopolitanism and patriotism (and nationalism)

Martha C. Nussbaum, professor at University of Chicago Law School, published in 1994 an article praising a “cosmopolitan stoic education” over a “national education” that started debates in the English speaking world about cosmopolitanism. The article is a reaction against Richard Rorty and Sheldon Hackney, and is therefore answering an internal Northern American debate. Published in 1994, it set the beginning of contemporary cosmopolitan theory. It opposes cosmopolitanism as an opening towards the world to patriotism as an inward and egoist feeling. Instead, it suggests stoicism as an inspiration in educating America citizens. Since the mid nineties cosmopolitan theory evolved, notably by moving away from stoic references to reason – as interpreted by the Enlightenment – to Habermas’ turn to communication. The reason for doing so is that reason is decided inside a particular discourse – making it a hegemonic discourse –, whereas communication is based on discussing inside the discourse from many other. Moreover, since then, the opposition between cosmopolitanism on the one side, and patriotism and nationalism on the other, has been criticised.

Nussbaum’s line of argument:

“I believe… that this emphasis on patriotic pride is both morally dangerous and, ultimately, subversive of some of the worthy goals patriotism sets out to serve — for example, the goal of national unity in devotion to worthy moral ideals of justice and equality. These goals, I shall argue, would be better served by an ideal that is in any case more adequate to our situation in the contemporary world, namely the very old ideal of the cosmopolitan, the person whose primary allegiance is to the community of human beings in the entire world.”

Some nationalists have engaged in a conversation about nationalism. A commitment to human rights for instance should be part of the education of citizens.

“But is it sufficient? As students here grow up, is it sufficient for them to learn that they are above all citizens of the United States, but that they ought to respect the basic human rights of citizens of India, Bolivia, Nigeria, and Norway? Or should they, as I think — in addition to giving special attention to the history and current situation of their own nation — learn a good deal more than is frequently the case about the rest of the world in which they live, about India and Bolivia and Nigeria and Norway and their histories, problems, and comparative successes?”

alexander_visits_diogenes_at_corinth_by_w_matthews_1914Diogenes cynic “citizen of the world,” defining oneself in more universal terms. Developed by Stoics: we have two communities, the local community of our birth, and the community of human argument and aspiration. One is born by accident in one nation. We should regard all humans as our fellow citizens and neighbours. Therefore we should not erect barriers between one another but recognise humanity everywhere.

Good civic education is education for world citizenship.

Stoics stress that one does not need to give up local identity, rather one should see our affiliations in terms of concentric circles: family, neighbours, countrymen, humanity. We should devote special attention to these close ties, the circle should revolve towards the centre. But we should not exclude the dialogue with the exterior, and devote attention and respect to others.

“I shall now return to the present day and offer four arguments for making world citizenship, rather than democratic/national citizenship, education’s central focus. (The first two are modern versions of my first two Stoic arguments; the third develops one part of my Stoic argument about intrinsic moral value; the fourth is more local, directed at the pro-patriotism arguments I am criticizing.)”:

1. “Through cosmopolitan education, we learn more about ourselves. One of the greatest barriers to rational deliberation in politics is the unexamined feeling that one’s own current preferences and ways are neutral and natural…. By looking at ourselves in the lens of the other, we come to see what in our practices is local and non-necessary, what more broadly or deeply shared.”

2. Our problems are global, such as pollution for instance. Dividing the world into nations is part of the problem in international cooperation.

3. “We recognize moral obligations to the rest of the world that are real, and that otherwise would go unrecognized.” à global justice.

“If we really do believe that all human beings are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights, we are morally required to think about what that conception requires us to do with and for the rest of the world. Once again, that does not mean that one may not permissibly give one’s own sphere a special degree of concern.” One has more attention to one’s children.

4. “On the one hand Rorty and Hackney seem to argue well when they insist on the centrality to democratic deliberation of certain values that bind all citizens together. But why should these values, which instruct us to join hands across boundaries of ethnicity and class and gender and race, lose steam when they get to the borders of the nation? By conceding that a morally arbitrary boundary such as the boundary of the nation has a deep and formative role in our deliberations, we seem to be depriving ourselves of any principled way of arguing to citizens that they should in fact join hands across these other barriers.”

Some same groups exist both outside and inside: is a Chinese Chinese in China, and American the minute he crosses the US border?

The defence of national shared values should also transcend borders. Respect should be accorded to humanity and not end at the border to only US citizen.

Being a citizen of the world is a lonely business: like Diogenes, it is going against the comfort of patriotism.

“If one begins life as a child who loves and trusts its parents, it is tempting to want to reconstruct citizenship along the same lines, finding in an idealized image of a nation a surrogate parent who will do one’s thinking for one. Cosmopolitanism offers no such refuge; it offers only reason and the love of humanity, which may seem at times less colorful than other sources of belonging.”

tagore3Rabindranath Tagore is cited as an example with his novel The Home and the World, in which the hero declares: “I am willing to serve my country; but my worship I reserve for Right which is far greater than my country. To worship my country as a god is to bring a curse upon it.” Tagore created a cosmopolitan university in India to promote the ideals of the cosmopolitan community of Santiniketan against ethno-centric forces of Hindu nationalism.


First, what kind of stoicism is this? Whose stoicism? Isn’t it a certain period’s interpretation of stoicism? My argument is this: cosmopolitanism as we know it today is the product of nineteenth century nationalism. As such it is a “national-cosmopolitanism.” In this cosmopolitanism, it is opposed to patriotism and nationalism as the local. In this sense, the debate cosmopolitanism vs. patriotism and/or nationalism is a debate inside the paradigm of the nation-state. There is a need to formulate a debate beyond this paradigm, which necessitates a meticulous analysis of “Western” intellectual history, first, and, second, a wide communication with the rest of the world.

Second, and related to the first point, does cosmopolitanism need to be solely the philosophy of those who travel? And does it need to be the philosophy of values “transcending” “negative” ideas of patriotism and nationalism? Other authors – e.g. Kymlicka, Tan – argue that cosmopolitanism and nationalism are not so foreign because they both stem from liberalism.

In my master’s thesis I have shown that indeed during eighteenth century French political thought, the concepts of “patrie” and “nation” were formulated in cosmopolitan terms, from the discourse of natural law, and a questioning of the rational sovereign for free and equal humankind.

However, even if slightly dated, Nussbaum’s article has the merit to have started a whole range of debates and discussion on cosmopolitanism, questioning what it is, what its relation to nationalism is, and how to formulate a genuinely global cosmopolitanism that would not be set in a located discourse.

The debates between cosmopolitans and patriots appears to be the one produced by a forgotten history – a product of nineteenth century’s building of nationalism as rejecting everything foreign on the one side, on an eighteenth conception of the “cosmopolitan” as a perpetual globe-trotter. This is precisely why a history of cosmopolitanism in political thought is needed: to delineate clearly the battles between discourses or inside discourses, the Ursprung of concepts, objects and theories such as “nation,” “patrie,” and “cosmopolitan.” This is my research project.


Works cited:

Habermas, Jürgen (1979 [1976]) Communication and the Evolution of Society. Beacon Press.

(1984, 1987) The Theory of Communicative Action. 2 vols. Translated by Thomas McCarthy. Cambridge: Polity.

Kymlicka, Will (2001) “From Enlightenment Cosmopolitanism to Liberal Nationalism.” In Politics in the Vernacular: Nationalism, Multiculturalism and Citizenship, by Will Kymlicka, 203-221(19). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nussbaum, Martha C. (1994) “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism.” Boston Review 19(5).

Rorty, Richard (1994) “The Unpatriotic Academy.” The New York Times, 13 February 1994.

Tagore, Rabindranath (2005 [1915]) The Home and the World. London: Penguin Classics.

Tan, Kok-Chor (2005) “The Demands of Justice and National Allegiances.” In The Political Philosophy of Cosmopolitanism, edited by Gillian Brock and Harry Brighouse, 164-179. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Obama’s Foreign Policy: A Cosmopolitan Policy in the Interests of the U.S.A.

obamasupermanCandidate Obama signed an article in the well-known scholarly journal of international relations Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007, entitled “Common Security for our Common Humanity.” There are a few reasons why Obama can be called a cosmopolitan politician as well as his policy agenda a program for cosmopolitics. One thing that is immediately striking is that there is no reference to American security or the American people in the title of the next president of the United States of America’s foreign policy program. A second thought, is the recognition already in the title of post-modern critiques made to security studies and the way we build our perceptions of security: a country’s security is ultimately a matter of building a global security, and a country’s security is not defined in protecting a state’s interest but humans’. However, the basic spheres of action of the U.S.A. are definitely standard neo-realist ones when it comes to nuclear threats and terrorism.

America and the world: a common shared humanity ergo common shared security.

Obama’s vision of foreign policy is that we’re in it together: “America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, and the world cannot meet them without America.” There is a certain will to engage the USA to more multilateral actions, and especially not to withdraw into a certain form of protectionism and inward focused political energy. The ambition is to continue not only on propagating values of freedom and democracy, but also on being a beacon to the world for these values – the two traditional schools of thought for American foreign policy (Kissinger 1994, 18). However, after the Bush administration these two must be renewed. A direct critique to the Bush administration’s choice of policy in Iraq is made in falsely believing that there only existed a military option when other policies lead to greater security – mainly, as will be shown, improving the international institutions, and financial assistance to alleviate poverty, disease and construct solid democracies. Obama’s novelty is to apply both schools of thought together, and to add a new dimension, which is to create a certain cosmopolis based on the idea of common humanity:

“The mission of the United States is to provide global leadership grounded in the understanding that the world shares a common security and a common humanity.”

Unilateral vs. Multilateral.

This vision of the U.S.A. in the world is led by the belief that it still is the most powerful state – according to neo-realist theory of power (military, economic, political) – and is still, and must be, the leader:

“The American moment is not over, but it must be seized anew. To see American power in terminal decline is to ignore America’s great promise and historic purpose in the world.”

Here there is nothing really new in the messianic dimension that the U.S.A. has itself in the world. Moreover, the U.S.A. will still act unilaterally in case “vital interests” are at stake:

“I will not hesitate to use force, unilaterally if necessary, to protect the American people or our vital interests whenever we are attacked or imminently threatened.”

The whole question is thus how Obama defines these interests. Are these solely military or terrorist attacks? In other cases, Obama committed to a multilateralist approach:

“But when we do use force in situations other than self-defense, we should make every effort to garner the clear support and participation of others…”

Obama cites Georges Bush’s action in Iraq as an example – not W. that is but H. W. – in 1991 when the coalition led by the United States had the “clear support and participation of others.”

Number One Priority: “Halting the spread of nuclear weapons.”

In which key sectors should then the U.S.A. act following these general guidelines? The first priority is nuclear proliferation and security from nuclear threats, especially terrorist acquisitions of nuclear devices. In order to do so, the U.S.A. must act in “active cooperation” with Russia, and principally in reaching a “consensus” on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This is very classical neo-realist international relations.

Number Two Priority: “Combating global terrorism.”

9/11 is still the reference in foreign policy. In order to do so it is the front in Afghanistan and Pakistan that must be reinforced with American troops redeployed. That means also that troops in Iraq are to be progressively withdrawn. The military budget will however be increased in order to face these challenges. However the way to tackle it is less unilateral than the preceding administrations. Not only does the U.S.A. need to build a global partnership, but Obama acknowledges the existence of a debate within Islam between fundamentalists and reformers, and wants to support reformers. Moreover, assessing previous failures, intelligence must be reinforced, and also must be strongly connected with other countries’ in a network and comprehensive strategy.

Number Three Priority: “Rebuilding our partnership.”

“To renew American leadership in the world, I intend to rebuild the alliances, partnerships, and institutions necessary to confront common threats and enhance common security.”

The novelty in American foreign policy is here: a greater commitment to building the institutions to create a world community bonded by common security threats.

NATO, comes first and is identified as the organization for common security. More troops must ensure collective security and more must be invested in this organization. However, nothing is said as to the notoriously American led government of the organization.

The United Nations nonetheless is identified as the organization in which the recognition of rising new powers in the world must be met with reforms:

“In addition, we need effective collaboration on pressing global issues among all the major powers — including such newly emerging ones as Brazil, India, Nigeria, and South Africa.” “We need to give all of them a stake in upholding the international order. To that end, the United Nations requires far-reaching reform.”

Is this a reform of the Security Council? Nothing is clearly stated, but it is already a giant leap that the word reform is accepted as well as the recognition of emerging powers such as precisely the countries named to enter the Security Council with a seat: Brazil, India, Nigeria, and South Africa,

As to climate change, it’s a sea-change. The much awaited commitment from the U.S.A. to reduce carbon emissions is clearly stated. No reference as to the Kyoto protocol and other international instruments to reduce pollution, though, but a clear statement to work with Europe and Asia. A note on national interest: engagement to put an end to dependence on foreign oil, but no prosaic explanation as to how: off-shore drilling or reducing the consumption?

Number four priority: “Building just, secure, democratic societies.”

“Finally, to renew American leadership in the world, I will strengthen our common security by investing in our common humanity.”

“To build a better, freer world, we must first behave in ways that reflect the decency and aspirations of the American people.”

Restore America’s role as a beacon, one of the two pillars of traditional American Foreign Policy. “This means ending the practices of shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, of detaining thousands without charge or trial, of maintaining a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law.”

Improve US foreign assistance funding, and couple with “insistent call for reform”.

“We need to invest in building capable, democratic states that can establish healthy and educated communities, develop markets, and generate wealth. Such states would also have greater institutional capacities to fight terrorism, halt the spread of deadly weapons, and build health-care infrastructures to prevent, detect, and treat deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and avian flu.

“As president, I will double our annual investment in meeting these challenges to $50 billion by 2012 and ensure that those new resources are directed toward worthwhile goals. For the last 20 years, U.S. foreign assistance funding has done little more than keep pace with inflation. It is in our national security interest to do better.”

“There are compelling moral reasons and compelling security reasons for renewed American leadership that recognizes the inherent equality and worth of all people.”


The new generation of leaders is telling a new story, a kind of new telos or “grand narrative” (Lyotard 1984) which in fact is this cosmopolitan narrative of a common humanity:

“… it is time for a new generation to tell the next great American story. If we act with boldness and foresight, we will be able to tell our grandchildren that this was the time when we helped forge peace in the Middle East. This was the time we confronted climate change and secured the weapons that could destroy the human race. This was the time we defeated global terrorists and brought opportunity to forgotten corners of the world. And this was the time when we renewed the America that has led generations of weary travelers from all over the world to find opportunity and liberty and hope on our doorstep.”

The novelty in Obama’s foreign policy is perhaps less the content, although it is a drastic return to a prior Bush administration – and Clinton administration –, than the form. The role of the U.S.A. in the world, the leadership for democracy and freedom is not new, but a traditional role. The role of the U.S.A. as a beacon isn’t either. But Obama wants both, and he wants to be a global leader in building a strong partnership toward a common goal which is humankind. In order to achieve such a goal, the American people but also the people of the world must participate by understanding and agreeing to policies taken:

“This is our moment to renew the trust and faith of our people — and all people — in an America that battles immediate evils, promotes an ultimate good, and leads the world once more.”



Kissinger, Henry (1994) Diplomacy. New York, NY: Touchstone.

Lyotard, Jean-François (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984, reprint 1997. Translated by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi.

Obama, Barack (2007) “Common Security for Our Common Humanity”, Foreign Affairs 86(4) July/August 2007.

Obama and McCain: Barack the cosmopolitan and John the local

Many things oppose Obama and McCain. Of course, on the paper–on which their programme is printed that is–not much is separating them. On many issues they agree and especially in foreign policy one would be a fool to believe that Obama would be more multilateralist than McCain. The “America interest” will always prime. However, the devil is in the details of their style. I believe after all in this old French saying according to which “the form is the substance that goes back to the surface.” Their forms are very different.

John is 72, he made most of his career already in the second half of the twentieth century. I do not mean to diminish him, it is just a fact. As the coronation of a long life–and many lives–the job of supreme commander seems appropriate for a man with so many experiences. He surely knows what tough is. One thing he does not know, however, is what the future is and how to shape it. He only knows how to shape the present from past experiences.

Barack is young, way too young. I do not mean to diminish him, it is just a fact. He does not have any experience, even in politics. He does not know what tough is–certainly not the way John knows. One thing he does know however, is how to shape the future and precisely because of his lack of experiences that pushes him to be creative.

Because of this lack of experience, Barack felt he had to prove himself. He went abroad to make campaign–a unique event in the history of presidential campaigns. He gained a wide support and could come back home with the image of a national leader that the whole world regards as the next president because he showed he listened and understood the global responsability that the USA has to bear.

John made his campaign in America. Day after day he strode along the country, the countryside, from pancake houses to gas stations. He met this population of rural WASPs, his fellowmen, the white America. When Barack made his key speech in Berlin in front of a huge crowd, John chose derision: a little improvised dialogue with the few journalists gathered on the front porch of a German restaurant lost in the middle of nowhere USA.

Because John’s campaign is resolutely addressed to America, this America that thinks it is the only America. And when he chose Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, it was also to stick even more to this America of self-proclaimed “patriots”, of self-proclaimed “values”, “traditions”, which must still be defended against an frightful “outside” world, which is conveniently confused with “terrorism,” “winning the war in Iraq,” and “Bin Laden is still out there.”

Barack’s campaign is turned to a different America, a plural America which is a whole continent with immigrants from the so-called “minorities” who came to live a better life. An America, which is part of the world and sees issues but does not demonise or confuse its population between a war in Iraq started for the wrong reasons and the necessity to finish a poorly done job. An America that listens to the world in how to cope with “threats.” If his international credentials were not solid enough, he chose an older and experienced diplomatic figure in the person of Joe Biden.

Barack’s campaign is focusing on huge stadiums, crowds, the Internet. John’s is old fashioned with many local meetings, less stadiums, less big crowds, less journalist crews following him. His internet campaign site does not provide any tool for Internet campaigning. The old fashioned styled America is his focus group, which he reaches with his tour bus “Straight talk express.”

Photo by Howie Luvzus
Photo by Howie Luvzus

Of course John also has a campaign jet, but it is not the image he wants to give; whereas Barack does not hesitate to give pictures of him thoughtfully contemplating the sky from the window of his jet as if already flying Air Force One.

In the end, which America will massively go voting is the big question of this campaign. Is it this multiethnic America, or Joe the plumber? The suburban immigrants who identify with Obama, the son of a Kenyan farmer raised in Asia? Or the rural WASP who still thinks that America must finish the job in Iraq where Bin Laden is hidden because America does not loose any more war since Vietnam?

The issue of this campaign has a significant meaning for realist cosmopolitan politics. If Obama gets elected, it means that a cosmopolitan profile can gather sufficiently an electorate to elect such politicians. If McCain wins, it means on the contrary that there still is some work to be done for cosmopolitanism to get closer to this “local” so that there is not such a divide between this local cut from the rest of the world, so aloof that events and politics of this world do not concern them and tend to confuse them. In my sense it is the biggest challenge of any cosmopolitan politician to gather sufficiently a whole part of society stuck in the twentieth century and take it to the twenty-first without a clash–of generation that is.

Schlereth: The Cosmopolitan Ideal in Enlightenment Thought

Schlereth, Thomas (1977) The Cosmopolitan Ideal in Enlightenment Thought: Its Form and Function in the Ideas of Franklin, Hume, and Voltaire, 1694-1790. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.

Thomas J. Schlereth studied how the cosmopolitan ideal had a “noticeable impact on Enlightenment intellectual life throughout the trans-Atlantic community”.[1] But Schlereth does not advance that cosmopolitanism was responsible for most of the movements of the eighteenth century. However, one can only but assume that, given the limit of his essay (based only on the works of Franklin, Hume, and Voltaire), he could not go further in affirming the impact of cosmopolitanism on a larger scale. (Schlereth 1977)

According to him, the concept of eighteenth century cosmopolitanism could be delimitated as possessing the following characteristics: “an attitude of mind that attempted to transcend chauvinistic national loyalties or parochial prejudices in its intellectual interests and pursuits”[2]; “… an aspiration of the elite intellectual class that Voltaire called the world’s petite [sic: petit] troupeau des philosophes[3]; “… more symbolic and theoretical than actual and practical”[4]; “… a psychological construct that prompted many philosophes to replace or to modify their attachment to their geographical region or sphere of activity with a more expansive, albeit abstract, attitude toward the whole world.”[5]

I think that starting a study with a definition of the subject to investigate is an analytic error to avoid. The term cosmopolitanism should not be delimitated in advance when looking at the Enlightenment period, because, otherwise, one runs the risk to look with present glasses on the past and interpret it anachronistically. But it has to be given to his credit that Schlereth writes that he tried to be critical of the cosmopolitanism he found in Voltaire, Hume and Franklin. And he evaluates where he found their account inconsistent, compromised or uncosmopolitan. Schlereth’s history, therefore, must be taken as a personal essay about intellectual history, a bit in the line of Todorov’s Nous et les autres.

“In the essay that follows, I argue that certain intellectual premises (for example, the Newtonian cosmology or the natural-rights philosophy), certain psychological dispositions (perhaps a self-conscious individualism or a strong cultural awareness), and certain historical realities (for instance, the development of world commerce or the exploration of the Western Hemisphere) combined in conditioning the Enlightenment philosophe in the direction of the cosmopolitan ideal. At the same time, the ideal also had since antiquity a historical life of its own which enabled the philosophe, who was aware of the classics and the intellectual climate of the eighteenth century, to confront social, economic, and political realities of that period in cosmopolitan terms.”[6]

Schlereth’s thesis of the blooming of cosmopolitanism is combining material and ideational elements, a certain discourse related to Newton and natural-right, social and economic structures with the development of world commerce and new explorations, and individual methodology with the idea of thinkers being responsible of changes.

Schlereth identifies the cosmopolites of the Enlightenment as the third generation of cosmopolites, the first being the Ancients (Greeks and Romans), and the second being the moderns of the Renaissance (Bacon, Locke, Newton, Bayle, and Leibnitz).[7] This third generation was influenced by the two first generations. “But the Enlightenment cosmopolites developed an even wider definition of the ideal and extended its appeal to a broader, although still elite, membership. Antiquity’s cosmopolites made their greatest contributions to the ideal in formulating its political and philosophical tenets; the Renaissance and early modern cosmopolites pursued its additional religious and social ramifications—especially when they confronted religious pluralism or became conscious of themselves as an emerging intellectual class. Enlightenment cosmopolites assimilated these earlier characteristics of the ideal while grappling with its further implications in science and economics. Employing this legacy of past expressions of cosmopolitanism as points of reference, inspiration, and departure, the Enlightenment philosophes formulated a distinctive mental attitude that can be viewed as one of the common denominators underlying the variety of eighteenth-century thought.”[8]

The sociology of an International class:

“The typical eighteenth-century philosophe aspired to be a cosmopolite, and in turn, the cosmopolite was, by the Enlightenment’s own presumptuous definition, pictured as a typical eighteenth-century philosophe.”[9]


The philosophes were all, to a certain degree, educated with classical Greek and Roman lettres. Schlereth suggests that the reason why they turned to the classics is that they were looking for non religious thinking about contemporary issues.

Paris as the capital of the Enlightenment and cosmopolitanism.

Many philosophes of the Enlighenment regarded Paris as the capital of cosmopolitanism and of Enlightenment.[10]

The diffusion of ideas:

Salons were the place where trans-class intellectual exchanges were possible.

Diners organised by aristocrats were the more virile equivalent of the salons organised mostly by erudite women.

Journals and publications were the means to diffuse the philosophes’ ideas. Nouvelles de la république des lettres was founded by Pierre Bayle in 1684, Nouvelles de la république des lettres et des arts was founded by Pahin de Champlain de la Blancherie, and Journal étranger, edited by Prévost, Fréron and Suard, had as its editorial policy to combine “the genius of each nation with those of all the others”.[11]


Philosophes were some kind of a “band of brothers”. They were extensively exchanging ideas between each others through correspondence. The ideal of the world citizen was realised by the unique class formed by the philosophes, or what the contemporary word “intellectual” could translate in our present discourse. They were neither from the nobility nor the bourgeoisie. They considered themselves as forming a class of their own.[12]

Economic and political theory of World order:

However, Hume and Voltaire considered the merchants to be cosmopolites.[13] The idea of a commercial society and economic interdependence is linked with the idea of a more civilized world and widening tolerance.

“The idealization of the cosmopolitan merchants can be traced to the middle-class origins of many philosophes. For while they appealed to economic principles and programs that they considered universal in scope, they did so quite naturally in terms of the specific interests of the social group that they considered to be the most progressive class of their time, that is, the emerging bourgeoisie or haute bourgeoisie from which so many of them originated.”[14]

Hume and Voltaire equated economic individualism with the development of political liberty. Probably, they are at the origin of the dogma in many international organisations and political thinking, that, in order to encourage democracy and political liberty in developing countries, neo-liberalist economics should be implemented. But they professed an absolute laissez-faire and laissez-passer, i.e. no only goods and capitals are free to travel, but also labour. Migration was seen as a right of Man.

“The notion of international commerce as a promoter of world civilization and peace became a consistent, if at times naïve, premise of Enlightenment cosmopolitan thought.”[15]

“The philosophes’ international outlook in economics influenced their attitude toward political theory, since they viewed both disciplines as interrelated branches of moral philosophy.”[16] The philosophes were not anti-national, but they had a clear idea of what constituted an appropriate and legitimate allegiance to one’s nation-state.

According to Schlereth, the majority of Enlightenment philosophes “made the usual Lockean distinction between society and government in that they considered society as a natural social unit and government as only a man-made social arrangement.” All political philosophies start with the individual.


Schlereth’s eighteenth-century cosmopolitanism is delineated as possessing the following characteristics: ‘an attitude of mind that attempted to transcend chauvinistic national loyalties or parochial prejudices in its intellectual interests and pursuits’ (1977, xi); ‘… an aspiration of the elite intellectual class that Voltaire called the world’s petite [sic: petit] troupeau des philosophes. This definition assumes and defines cosmopolitanism as elitist, beyond the national, and abstract. The problem is that the historian must then look for the national at a period when it did not yet exist, and oppose normatively a supposedly ‘abstract’ and ‘elitist’ cosmopolitanism to what seems to be a ‘concrete’ and ‘popular’ nationalism. What is wrong in this picture is that, not only did the ‘national’ not yet exist, but that, in eighteenth-century political thought, what is today identified as ‘national’ was just as abstract and elitist as cosmopolitanism is imagined to be. Not only that, it also referred to a unifying political community — beyond the local under the natural law conception of freedom and equality among men. This sounds almost identical to the very same working definition provided of cosmopolitanism. However, based on this contemporary conception of cosmopolitanism as opposed to nationalism, one must assume that the latter was different from the former. Why is that so? Moreover, important actors of the French revolution actually argued and acted in very cosmopolitan terms; and chiefly the 1789 Declaration of the rights of man and the citizen represents an important piece of practical cosmopolitics in recognising the freedom and equality of the whole humankind. This is far from a ‘more symbolic and theoretical than actual and practical’ conception.

Behind all this lies a need for a re-conceptualisation of the relationship between cosmopolitanism and nationalism, especially in regard to the French revolution. This method of ontological definition is problematic for both the historian and the philosopher. For the historian, there is a risk of applying an anachronistic vision of cosmopolitanism, based on a contemporary approach of what it is a vision biased by nationalism as argued supra and ignoring what it has been. For the philosopher, it is ruining future ontological constructions by reproducing again and again the same ‘knowledge’ of what cosmopolitanism is and has been.

A possible way out of this ontology/epistemology conundrum is to make a Foucaultian ‘history of the present’ by means of a genealogy of this battle between discourses.

[1] Schlereth, 1977: xi.

[2] Ibid.: xi.

[3] Ibid.: xii.

[4] Ibid.: xii.

[5] Ibid.: xiii.

[6] Ibid.: xiv.

[7] Ibid.: xxiv-xxv.

[8] Ibid.: xxv.

[9] Ibid.: 1.

[10] Ibid.: 6

[11] Ibid.: 15-16

[12] Ibid.: 13.

[13] Ibid.: 101.

[14] Ibid.: 102.

[15] Ibid.: 103.

[16] Ibidem.

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