Mikkel Thorup – Cosmopolitics!

Great article in Eurozine published in 2006 by Mikkel Thorup, lecturer at the University of Århus in Denmark, on political cosmopolitanism. It explains well where contemporary cosmopolitanism stands, in between universalism, pluralism, and nationalism: “New cosmopolitanism is therefore critical of what we can call the universalist Left and the nationalist Right.”

Still, the article, as most of cosmopolitan theories, is confusing cosmopolitanism with the figure of the cosmopolite. Certainly, the recent resurgence of cosmopolitanism in contemporary political theory is a direct consequence of globalization. However, one should also note that this resurgence has been and is still widely limited to the English speaking world. In particular, the debate started in the USA with Martha Nussbaum’s article opposing cosmopolitanism to patriotism. In other words, the debate did not appear in other countries, and if it appeared in the USA it is because of the previous debates in political thought, between liberalists, communautarianists, libertarians, and more recently multiculturalists and pluralists. Globalization just triggered new dimensions into these debates.

A metaphoric nation-state

A metaphoric nation-state

New cosmopolitanism is therefore a product of debates in English-speaking political philosophy. As a reflex, it takes the condition of the “cosmopolite” as a reference, but it has, as a matter of fact, little to do with this. Moreover, if cosmopolitanism bases itself on the figure of the “cosmopolite”, it is doomed to remain in a state of minoritarian philosophy. Contrary to what the perception of globalization is, the real figure of mobility is not as extravaguant as it has been in the past (say during the 19th century). What is new is the perception of world community given by globalization. What is new is the possibility to approach foreign cultures, foreign modes of thinking, without actually moving an inch from one’s computer with broadband internet connection. So cosmopolitanism should rather philosophise not on our cosmopolitan condition, but our present condition close to the one of King Ludwig II of Bavaria: living in a fantasy-like castle, and not traveling, but having a horse-carriage drive around in the castle’s courtyard exactly the same distance as the one needed to travel from the castle to a determined destination (Paris, Milan, etc).


The cosmopolite’s notion of justice does not cease to exist at the national border. She dreams of the world city, filled with opportunity and potential for change; the labyrinthine commotion of the marketplace and the pluralism of human existence. But fundamentalist Muslims, Christians, and others despise the “world city”. Political cosmopolitanism was born out of an analysis of globalization – it is critical both of the neoliberal globalization of the market and the fundamentalist or nationalistic backlash. Questions concerning world citizenship, dual citizenship, and multiple loyalties make their presence felt as it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate between inner and outer, foreign and domestic politics, citizen and foreigner, friend and foe.

About Frank Ejby Poulsen, Ph.D.

Education: PhD History, European University Institute, Florence, Italy. MSc Political Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. LLB/LLM International law and EU law, University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, France. Academia Profile: http://eui.academia.edu/FrankEjbyPoulsen Research Gate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Frank_Poulsen Languages: French: Mother tongue Danish: C2 English: C2 Italian: C1 German: B2-C1 Spanish: A2-B1 Norwegian and Swedish: reading comprehension Latin: intermediate
This entry was posted in Articles, Cosmopolitanism. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.