ASTK18207U Cosmopolitanism


Bachelor student: 10 ECTS

Master student: 7.5 ECTS


This course is an introduction to (‘Western’) cosmopolitanism in political and social theory. After the end of the cold war intellectuals searched for a new grand narrative for the world ranging from ‘the end of history’, with a triumphant liberal democracy, to a ‘clash of civilisations’, with a return of conflicts based on culture rather than ideology. Another view emerged at the same time that re-interpreted the old idea of cosmopolitanism. It sought to reconcile the tension between a liberal boundaryless view of democracy based on universal human rights, and a bounded notion of democracy based on self-imposed legal norms. This new cosmopolitanism places itself as a bridge between nationalism and universalism, the local and the universal, the particular and the general. It sought to answer ethical and political issues that globalisation challenges us with. Is immigration a human right? How can decisions made in a foreign country affecting another be justified? Is it possible to build a global republic, state, or polity? Is it possible to build a global community, does it already exist, do we need an identity for global institutions? How to build a system for promoting global justice? What values are universal?

This introductory course will present a subjective choice of the main views and theories of cosmopolitanism in a lively and interactive way. Part of the course will focus on historical texts in cosmopolitanism, notably the tradition of natural law and how it informed our conceptions of rights and international law, Ancient notions of belong to a single moral community with the Stoics, Christian moral community, the transition between Enlightenment cosmopolitanism and liberal nationalism, and contractarian notions of justice and community. Most of the course will focus on contemporary questions that philosophers address in relation to globalisation, which are often based on these historical traditions. This course is directed primarily at students considering careers in global affairs, be it international organisations, NGOs, diplomacy, or transnational private companies, or intellectual careers. The aim is to equip you with the essential elements of a body of thought to discuss and form your own moral argumentation regarding complex global issues.


Learning Outcome


  • give an account of and take a critical stance towards the various concepts and periods of cosmopolitanism
  • define and discuss the concepts of global citizenship, world state, global justice, world community, cosmopolitan identity, cosmopolitan obligations, global democracy, universal morality, republican cosmopolitanism, cosmopolitan war and intervention, and global legal order.


  • evaluate current events according to cosmopolitan theory
  • debate pros and cons of cosmopolitan theory within a wide range of fields: immigration, democracy, justice, religion, freedom, etc.


  • independently formulate a cosmopolitan solution to an economic, legal, and/or ethical problem
  • structure and initiate empirical or theoretical analyses in collaboration with related subject areas

Syllabus: 900-1200 pages

Historical works:

Augustine of Hippo, The City of God against the Pagans, R.W. Dyson (ed. and trans.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.


Bentham, Jeremy, Principles of International Law, in The Works of Jeremy Bentham, ed. John Bowring, vol. 2, New York: Russell & Russell, 1962, pp. 535–560.


Cicero, On Duties, M.T. Griffin and E.M. Atkins (ed. and trans.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.


Dante, Monarchy, Prue Shaw (ed. and trans.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.


Erasmus, Desiderius, A Complaint of Peace Spurned and Rejected by the Whole World, B. Radice (trans.), in Works, vol. 27, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986, pp. 289–322.


Grotius, Hugo, The Law of War and Peace. De Iure Belli ac Paci Libri Tres, F.W. Kelsey (trans.), New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1925; originally 1625.


Kant, Immanuel ‘Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch’, in Political Writings ed. H. Reiss, pp. 93 – 130. (38pages)


Kant, Immanuel “Idea for a Universal History with A Cosmopolitan Purpose,” in Political Writings ed. H. Reiss, pp. 41 – 53. (12 pages)


Marx, Karl, Early Political Writings, J. O’Malley and R.A. Davis (ed. and trans.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.


Plato, Plato: Complete Works, J.M. Cooper (ed.), Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997.


Pufendorf, Samuel, De iure naturae et gentium libri octo, W. Simons (ed.), Buffalo: Hein, 1995.


Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, The Social Contract and Other Later Political Writings, V. Gourevitch (ed. and trans.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.


Schlegel, K.W.F., “Essay on the Concept of Republicanism occasioned by the Kantian tract ’Perpetual Peace’,” in The Early Political Writings of the German Romantics, F.C. Beiser (ed. and trans.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 93–112.


Seneca, Lucius Annaeus, Moral and Political Esays, J.M. Cooper and J.F. Procopé (ed. and trans.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.


Smith, Adam, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, R. H. Campbell, A. S. Skinner, and W.B. Todd (eds.), Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1976.


Contemporary works:

Appiah, Kwame A., 2006, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers, New York: W.W. Norton.


Balibar, E. & Goshgarian, G. M. (2018). Secularism and Cosmopolitanism, Critical Hypotheses on Religion and Politics (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.


Benhabib, Seyla et al., Another Cosmopolitanism: Hospitality, Sovereignty, and Democratic Iterations, (ed. Robert Post), Oxford University Press, 2006. (pp. 13-82) (69 pages)


Breckenridge, Carol A., Sheldon Pollock, Homi K. Bhabha, and Dipesh Chakrabarty. Cosmopolitanism. Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2002.


Brock, Gillian, and Harry Brighouse (eds.), 2005, The Political Philosophy of Cosmopolitanism, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.


Brown, Garrett Wallace, 2009, Grounding Cosmopolitanism: From Kant to the Idea of a Cosmopolitan Constitution, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.


Brown, Garrett Wallace, and David Held (eds.), 2010, The Cosmopolitanism Reader, Cambridge: Polity Press.


Cabrera, Luis, Political Theory of Global Justice: A Cosmopolitan Case for the World State. London: Routledge, 2004.


Caney, Simon, 2005, Justice Beyond Borders: A Global Political Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Cheah, Pheng, and Bruce Robbins (eds.), 1998, Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.


Chun S. (2012) ’Chinese Cosmopolitanism (tianxia)’. In: Major Aspects of Chinese Religion and Philosophy. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 203-212.


Glick Schiller, Nina and Andrew Irving, eds., Whose Cosmopolitanism? Critical Perspectives, Relationalities and Discontents (New York, 2015)


Halldenius, Lena, “Building Blocks of a Republican Cosmopolitanism: The Modality of Being Free” in European Journal of Political Theory9, 1 (January 2010): pp. 12-30.


Held, David (2010). Cosmopolitanism: Ideals and Realities. Cambridge: Polity Press.


Owen Goldin, ‘Conflict and Cosmopolitanism in Plato and the Stoics,’ Apeiron, 44 (2011), 264–86.


Ingram, James D. Radical Cosmopolitics: The Ethics and Politics of Democratic Universalism. New York, NY: Columbia University Press 2013.


Fabre, Cécile. Cosmopolitan War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.


Habermas, Jürgen, 2001, The Postnational Constellation: Political Essays, Max Pensky (ed. and trans.), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


–––, 2006, The Divided West, Ciaran Cronin (trans.), Cambridge: Polity Press.


Kymlicka, Will. Politics in the Vernacular: Nationalism, Multiculturalism and Citizenship. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.


Laborde, “Republicanism and Global Justice: A Sketch” in European Journal of Political Theory 9, 1 (January 2010): pp. 48-69.


Long, A. A. ‘The Concept of the Cosmopolitan in Greek & Roman Thought’, Daedalus Vol. 137, No. 3, On Cosmopolitanism (Summer, 2008), pp. 50-58 (8pages).


Lu, Catherine “The One and Many faces of Cosmopolitanism” in Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol.8 No.2, pp.244-267 (24pp.)


Miller, David, 1995, On Nationality, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Nussbaum, Martha C., 2006, Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership, Cambridge: Belknap Press.


Nussbaum, Martha C., et al., 1996, For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism, Joshua Cohen (ed.), Boston: Beacon Press.


Pettit, Philip, “A Republican Law of Peoples” in European Journal of Political Theory 9,1 (January 2010): pp. 70-94.


Rawls, John, 1999, The Law of Peoples, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.


Sanders, Jerry W.  ‘Cosmopolitanism as a Peace Theory,’ in Nigel J. Young, ed., The Oxford International Encyclopedia of Peace, 4 vols. (Oxford, 2010), I, pp. 497–501.


Scheffler, Samuel, 2001, Boundaries and Allegiances: Problems of Justice and Responsibility in Liberal Thought, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Tagore, Rabridanath, ‘Nationalism in the West’, http:/​/​​Render/​ShowContent.aspx?ct=Essays&bi=72EE92F5-BE50-40D7-8E6E-0F7410664DA3&ti=72EE92F5-BE50-4A47-0E6E-0F7410664DA3 (11 pages)


Tan, Kok-Chor. Justice Without Borders: Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism and Patriotism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.


Vernon, Richard, Cosmopolitan Regard: Political Membership and Global Justice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.


Vertovec, Steven, and Robin Cohen (eds.), 2002, Conceiving Cosmopolitanism: Theory, Context, and Practice, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Waldron, Jeremy “What is Cosmopolitan?” in Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol.8 No.2, pp. 227-243 (17pp.)


Walker, RBJ. “Polis, Cosmopolis, Politics” in Alternatives: Global, Local, Political. Vol.28 No.2 (2003), pp.267-286. (20pp)


Ypi, Lea (2010) ’Basic rights and cosmopolitan justice from an enlightened localist perspective’. Comparative Sociology, 9 (5). pp. 594-610.


Ypi, Lea (2012) Global Justice and Avant-Garde Political Agency. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Recommended Academic Qualifications

A previous course on the history of political thought would be an advantage, but there is no prerequisite for this course besides an interest in political thought and a personal commitment to make a better world.
Teaching and learning methods

Each session will start with a quick recap of the past one in the form of a quiz. A short presentation of the texts will follow addressing the historical/​cultural/​political/​economic context. The second part of the session will focus on interactive debates on the questions raised in the readings.
Feedback form

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Free written assignment

  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course’s goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Class Instruction: 28 hours

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