Self-fashioning and rhetoric in the french revolution: Anacharsis Cloots, orator of the human race

Global Intellectual History. Published online 30 May 2018,

This article analyses what Anacharsis Cloots (1755–1794) meant when he chose the name Anacharsis and called himself ‘Orator of the human race’. It argues that it was an act of self-fashioning by a foreigner in the French Revolution trying to find his place by representing other foreign populations in the new nation of free and equal citizens. Cloots, therefore, saw the Revolution as a performance on the global stage. Cloots chose Anacharsis as first name as an act of rejection against Christianity, but also because Anacharsis was a philosopher of Ancient Greece he identified with. Cloots chose the function of orator against ‘feudalism’ because, in the Roman republic, Cicero described the orator as a hero—a philosopher pondering the truth and convincing his audience with rhetorical skills. The orator is delivering universal truths and that is also why Cloots chose to publish pamphlets rather than treatises, in line with the rhetoric of the Enlightenment and the rhetoric of the Revolution. His political thought should therefore be considered seriously as the work of a political philosopher.


The Education of Anacharsis Cloots (1755–1794) at the Berlin Académie militaire des nobles (1770–1773)

untitledHistory of European Ideas. Published online 12 June 2018,

This article examines the education that Anacharsis Cloots (1755–1794) received during his stay at the Berlin Académie des nobles (1770–1773). Cloots wrote at several occasions about his education there, notably naming Sulzer as a philosophical influence 10 years later. Examining the pupils’ life at the Académie, Sulzer’s teaching, and the detailed study schedule, this paper wonders what elements may have influenced Cloots. It is likely that Sulzer taught the philosophy of Wolff, but it is difficult to ascertain his influence on Cloots. There are similarities between Wolff’s civitas maxima and Cloots’s ‘universal republic’ that justify further studies.

Pollock, Sheldon, Bhabha, Breckenridge — Cosmopolitanisms

Work Cited 

Pollock, Sheldon, Homi K. Bhabha, Carol A. Breckenridge, and Dipesh Chakrabarty. “Cosmopolitanisms.” In Cosmopolitanism, edited by Carol A. Breckenridge, Sheldon Pollock, Homi K. Bhabha and Dipesh Chakrabarty, 1-14. Durham, NC & London: A Millennial Quartet Book, 2002.

Cosmopolitanism as an object of study: practice and theory related in a necessarily open concept

Cosmopolitanism comprises some of today’s most challenging problems of academic analysis and political practice, especially when analysis and practice are seen… as a conjoint activity. For one thing, cosmopolitanism is not some known entity existing in the world, with a clear genealogy from the Stoics to Immanuel Kant, that simply awaits more detailed description at the hands of scholarship. We are not exactly certain what it is, and figuring out why this is so and what cosmopolitanism may be raises difficult conceptual issues. As a practice, too, cosmopolitanism is yet to come, something awaiting realization. Again, this is not because we already understand and can practice it but have not – [sic] a mode of action whose rules we are familiar with and need merely to apply. Cosmopolitanism may instead be a project whose conceptual content and pragmatic character are not only as yet unspecified but also must always escape positive and definite specification, precisely because specifying cosmopolitanism positively and definitely is an uncosmopolitan thing to do (Pollock, et al. 2002, 1)>.

The indeterminacy of how to achieve a cosmopolitan political practice feeds back into the problem of academic analysis. As a historical category, the cosmopolitan should be considered entirely open, and not pregiven or foreclosed by the definition of any particular society or discourse. Its various embodiments, including past embodiments, await discovery and explication. In this way, the components of the linked academic-political activity of cosmopolitanism become mutually reinforcing: new descriptions of cosmopolitanism as a historical phenomenon and theoretical object may suggest new practices, even [2] as better practices may offer a better understanding of the theory and history of cosmopolitanism (Pollock, et al. 2002, 1-2).

Cosmopolitanism as questioning “our time”

“Emergent discourses of cosmopolitanism are riven with deep historical ironies about what it means to live in our times. What defines our times? What times are ours?” (Pollock, et al. 2002, 4)

Transition marks the questions of our times. And “Cosmopolitanism, in its wide and wavering nets, catches something of our need to ground our sense of mutuality in conditions of mutability, and to learn to live tenaciously in terrains of historic and cultural transition” (Pollock, et al. 2002, 4).

In this interstice we are confronting old and new, past and present.

Cosmopolitanism as a critic of neoliberalism

Today’s times are marked by a “neoliberal emphasis [that] falls more on individualist aspirations and universalist norms” (Pollock, et al. 2002, 4-5). But this revenant late liberalism reveals, in a more exaggerated form, a struggle at the heart of liberal theory, where a genuine desire for equality as a universal norm is tethered to a tenacious ethnocentric provincialism in matters of cultural judgement and recognition(Pollock, et al. 2002, 5).

All the derring-do between the local and the global in the dialectic of worldly thinking should not conceal the fact that neoliberal cosmopolitan thought is founded on a conformist sense of what it means to be a “person” as an abstract unit of cultural exchange (Pollock, et al. 2002, 5).

A rights culture is essential. But “None of this should hide the fact that the fetishization of liberal individualism has, in the past few years, created a cosmopolitan imaginary signified by the icons of singular personhood” (Pollock, et al. 2002, 5). World citizenship is personalised by Gates, Mother Theresa and Soros.

Cosmopolitanism as a critic of modernity: minoritarian modernity

“A cosmopolitanism grounded in the tenebrous moment of transition is distinct from other more triumphalist notions of cosmopolitical existence” (Pollock, et al. 2002, 5). Modernity has produced several universalist claims to world citizenship: capitalism (world connected of markets), communism (united workers of the world), late liberalism (humans as bearers of rights). Each of them is framed by the idea of national sovereignty. “… Nationhood is the social form that renders modernity self-conscious… so that the cosmopolitan spirit may inhabit a world that is ethically synchronous and politically symmetrical.” (6) However it has shown the terrible asymmetries of the idea of modernity itself. (6)

The cosmopolitanism of our times does not spring from the capitalized “virtues” of Rationality, Universality, and Progress; nor is it embodied in the myth of the nation writ large in the figure of the citizen of the world. Cosmopolitans today are often the victims of modernity, failed by capitalism’s upward mobility (Pollock, et al. 2002, 6).

These people are refugees, diaspora, migrants. Too often, in the West, these people are seen as a problem. Cultural pluralism is recognising difference only as long as the general category of people is understood in the national frame.

“What we are calling minoritarian modernity (as a source of cosmopolitan thinking) is visible in the new forms of transdisciplinary knowledges that we initiate in the “multicultural” academy” (6) It is a way to “provincialise” Europe and seek cosmopolitical genealogies from the non-Christian Sanskrit world. “Transdisciplinary knowledge, in the cosmopolitan cause, is more readily a translational process of culture’s inbetweenness than a transcendent knowledge of what lies beyond difference, in some common pursuit of the universality of the human experience.” (6-7)

Cosmopolitanism and feminism


Cosmopolitanism as diversity

… The nature of late-twentieth-century nationalism, multiculturalism, and the globalization of late liberalism has created a historical context for reconsidering concepts of cosmopolitanism (7).

Most discussions of cosmopolitanism as a historical concept and activity largely predetermine the outcome by their very choice of materials. If it is already clear that cosmopolitanism begins with the Stoics, who invented the term, or with Kant, who reinvented it, then philosophical reflection on these moments is going to enable us always to find what we are looking for. Yet what if we were to try to be archivally cosmopolitan and to say, “Let’s simply look at the world across time and space and see how people have thought and acted beyond the local.” We would then encounter an extravagant array of possibilities. (10)

Doing this in this volume shows that history of cosmopolitanism can be rewritten dramatically, and that the range of practices allow for new and alternative theoretisation.

The core project of modernity is to exclude the middle: an object is either x or not-x. In this sense modernity is an attempt to separate and purify realms that have never been separated nor pure and still are not (12). This holds true in particular for individuated and unique cultures.

What the new archives, geographies, and practices of different historical cosmopolitanisms might reveal is precisely a cultural illogic for modernity that makes perfectly good non-modern sense. They might help us see that cosmopolitanism is not a circle created by culture diffused from a center, but instead, that centers are everywhere and circumferences nowhere (12).

The essays attempt to expand the repertory of archives, geographies, histories and disciplines of cosmopolitanisms. Diversity becomes the force and the project.

Cosmopolitanism and all that jazz

Peter Wessel wrote an excellent essay on jazz, a tad historical and analytical, of the mingling, or lack thereof, and intermingling of cultures and traditions. If music is already considered to be the most universal mode of communication, then jazz would be its lingua franca. Unfortunately, it has become an idiom, a fixed form, in many of the attempts in its history to transcend the genre. As a matter of fact, the issue may lie in the reflex to bend jazz towards one’s own culture — an oral culture for black Americans, a classical music culture for white Americans, Peter writes. This has led to many attempts to reinvigorate jazz, which inevitably became locked in their own idiom. Jazz was at a low point by the end of the 60s — almost a dead end. Frank Zappa once famously wrote in his 1974 tune Be-Bop Tango (Of the Old Jazzmen’s Church) on the album Roxy & Elsewhere, “jazz is not dead, it just smells funny”. Only World Music managed to find a more encompassing way according to Peter:

World Music succeded in reinvigorating jazz precisely because it did not try to melt all jazz into one pot. Instead it took pot luck and accepted the dynamic plurality that is characteristic of the European checkerboard of peoples.

This sounds like a cosmopolitan music theory — a universal mode of expression anchored in the principle of freedom of expression, yet respectful of the plurality of sensibilites and views.

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.

Ottmar Ette (University of Potsdam) The Scientist as Weltbürger: Alexander von Humboldt and the Beginning of Cosmopolitics

Excellent article on Humboldt and cosmopolitanism, arguing that the ‘Weltbürger’ was a scientist and the scientist a ‘Weltbürger.’ This reminds me of my own research on the use of the term cosmopolitan and citizen of the world in eighteenth century France. Very often people would use it as a moniker to claim a position of universal truth, a certain neutrality of view in international debates, and certainly a position of positivity as a subject. Very sketchily this position was made possible — this is my contention — because of the central position that humanity took in the discourse, and the general belief in the universality of reason. Every person through reason could ponder the laws of universal truth, without any particularistic bias. This is the fundament of positivity and its connection to the cosmopolitan. However, I argue that cosmopolitan and cosmopolitanism are two different things, and cannot be equated to one another. The apparition of the word ‘cosmopolitanism’ is a late nineteenth century invention, contemporary with the social embeddedness of nationalism. Since nationalism claimed the particular, the fixed, the boundary, cosmopolitanism, based on the travelling cosmopolitan became the general, the world, the moving, the boundaryless. Some US/THEM differentiation.

Here is the link on Humboldt and cosmopolitanism:

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

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.

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.

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.

French cuisine and national identity

I read in this week’s French equivalent to Time magazine Le Point an interview of gourmet critique Christian Millau, creator of the famous restaurant guide of the best restaurants, that ‘French cuisine does not exist.’

Actually, it is a point of view I came up with long ago after a few thoughts based on my travels, on numerous requests from friends abroad that I cook ‘something French.’ Inevitably I would think about a regional dish to illustrate something ‘French’: a ‘tartiflette’ from Savoie, pancakes from Bretagne, ‘Boeuf bourguignon’ from Bourgogne, ‘ratatouille’ from Provence, and so on.

I have always been wondering about this paradox that the French revolution and the national unification that ensued under the name ‘jacobinism’ did not manage to create such sense of national identity in culinary creations. I guess all in all some tastes cannot be reconciled. Butter cuisine from Bretagne and Normandy in North-West France would never meet olive oil based dishes from the Mediterranean region. Perhaps, after all, regional cultures and identity managed to survive this jacobinism despite the republican discourse presenting ‘regional particularism’ as archaic expressions of separatism while national unity represented ‘modernity’–this old fear of ‘communautarism’ in the French discourse about identity–thanks to regional cuisine and the impossibility to develop a national one.

It is very interesting to think about identity questions in terms of culinary traditions, of taste and food. Some fusions are always possible and new creations endless from a vast variety of products. However, they always need a solid basis in traditional and regional products, unchanged. At some point nevertheless, this fusion encounters limits. Everyone is free to accommodate ‘traditional’ recipes or products with one another, endlessly and without rules. As long as it tastes good.

Ulrich Beck: A New Cosmopolitanism is in the Air

Here is a link to an article by German sociologist Ulrich Beck published in November 2007, which is a translation of the original into English:

It is quite summing up the arguments developed in his three last books on cosmopolitanism — Power in the Global Age: A New Political Economy (2002/2006); Cosmopolitan Vision (2004/2006); ; Cosmopolitan Europe (2007) — from a sociological perspective — i.e. replacing ‘methodological nationalism’ with ‘methodological cosmopolitanism’ in order to study the ‘cosmopolitanisation’ of societies and the global relations of power at stake. This theoretical approach is based on the meta-theory of ‘reflexive modernisation’ or ‘second modernisation’ in which we live in, developed in Risk society and extended in World Risk Society: On the Search for Lost Security (1999): we have moved from industrial society and nation-states thought in the paradigm of modern rationality, to a service-based society and undefined political entities in a paradigm of reflexiv identities, socially constructed.

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