Cosmopolitanism is a political philosophy of all human beings, regardless of their national, ethnic and regional identities who form part of a single community based on shared morality. According to Calhoun (2007), modern nationalism requires structural conditions to exist due to the post-national world at present. I argue that cosmopolitanism is an ambitious and promising project with far-reaching and spillover benefits yet certain implications should be tackled to maintain the much desired cosmopolitan ideal.
The rise of globalization has prompted the cosmopolitan birth and as per Anthony Giddens (1990), globalization is the ‘intensification of social relations’, ideas, and cultural contacts which result in shared norms. It brings forth the concept of a benign universal humanity, with norms of universal human rights, peace, harmony and social cohesion. As such, the creation of cross-national links, transcending the nationalist’s sense of identity and belonging, breeds a culture of acceptance of difference and cultural integration. It acts as a cultural bridge, much like the bonds of the Commonwealth or any diaspora such as the Indian or African ones. Calhoun (2007) fully supports the cosmopolitan ideal of the appreciation of differences, transcendence of loyalties, adherence to the laws of nature and enlargement of nationalistic values.
Another aspect influencing the desirability of cosmopolitanism is the democratization of politics. Despite some weaknesses, democracy is held as one of the most desirable, transparent, accountable and individual-carried political systems. Cosmopolitanism spreads global democracy and citizenship as Vertovek and Cohen (2002) argue because it forms transnational frameworks and it is non-excludable. Such adherence provides seats in international institutions like the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund. Such membership brings multifarious benefits like aid programs. The positive impact of democracy can be illustrated in the Kosovar war whereby campaigns and revolutions were waged for the nation to join the universal league of democratic, sovereign and legitimate states. However, despite the democratic appeal, excessive use and abuse of power and domination of a political elite should be avoided so as to maintain the democratic reputation.
Although nationalism is a philosophically progress-driven policy, inherent weaknesses of nationalism raise the moral issues leading to the preference for cosmopolitanism. According to Nussbaum (1996), nationalism may be hostile to differences and wrongly managed multiplicities. The wake of religious extremism, zealotry, ethnic violence and cleansing are blots on nationalism. Israel/Palestine, Boko Haram kidnappings and Syrian conflict are indications of the potentially disastrous effects of nationalism. Moral cosmopolitanism solves these issues by finding common grounds for humanity, shared human conscience, aspirations and human rights. For instance, the supranational United Nations and the International Criminal Court have heavily sanctioned war crimes like the Rwandan genocide and the ethnic cleansing during World War II for outrageous violation of human rights. Solutions need to be pressingly found for these nationalist problems.
Consequently, cosmopolitan education provides the basis for creating a ‘citizen of the world’ culture. According to Nussbaum (1996), instilling values of humanity to children from a young age ensures that they grow up with tolerance, acceptance and a stronger sense of belonging to the world. Feeling comfortable with all the citizens and finding transnational bonds are prerequisites for the realization of a cosmopolitan dream. It is often undermined though that connecting people enhances the desirability and feasibility of cosmopolitanism.
Furthermore, the cosmopolitan ideal becomes a feasible project when it creates the space for global governance and dialogue. The mediation of decisions and ideas ensures an allegiance to morality, common ideals and reason, dampening potentially disruptive forces of conflict, war and selfishness. As per Nussbaum (1996), the deliberate attempt for consensus and conformity is beneficial as illustrated in the Montreal Protocol for the protection of the ozone layer. This form of multilayered governance with diffused authority (Held, 2002) is a must to solving key and pressing twenty-first century issues like climate change, conflict, financial crises and poverty.
Therefore, cosmopolitanism fits perfectly on the contemporary environment because it unites nations which are divided in various ways, helping them to strive for a common universal goal (Calhoun, 2007). Yet it is also vulnerable to distortion, manipulation and destruction. We should nevertheless, use it to orient our thinking and inform our projects to achieve inclusive, accessible and universal goals.
Calhoun, C. (2007) ‘Nationalism matters’ in Nations matter: citizenship, solidarity, and the cosmopolitan dream. (Chapter 2), pp 27-50. Routledge.
Harrison, S. (2003) ‘Cultural difference and denied resemblance: reconsidering nationalism and ethnicity.’ Society for Comparative Study of Society and History 45 (2).
Held, D. (2003) ‘Cosmopolitanism: globalization tamed?’ Review of International Studies, 29(04)
Nussbaum, M. C. (1996) ‘Patriotism and cosmopolitanism’ in For Love of country. Debating the limits of patriotism. Boston: Beacon Press.
Vertovec, S. and Cohen, R. (2002) ‘Introduction: conceiving cosmopolitanism’ in Conceiving cosmopolitanism: theory, context and practice. Oxford.