The Cosmopolitanism Reader
Reviewer: Dylan Kissane (Centre D'etudes Franco-Americain De Management)
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As the process of globalisation continues apace, as the distant and diverse becomes the near and more familiar, and as the obligations of individuals, corporations, institutions and states to others like them in a complex, interdependent system are called more often into question, it is time to re-visit one of the key paradigms in international relations which seeks to explain such issues. Cosmopolitanism is that paradigm and with The Cosmopolitanism Reader editors Garret Wallace Brown and David Held have collected what amounts to the canon of cosmopolitanism thought in international politics. Extensive in breadth and depth, this collection takes the reader from Kant to contributions from Daniele Archibugi and Simon Caney, the twenty-six chapters represent a significant contribution understanding cosmopolitanism ideas from their emergence to the present day.
The collection is well structured and easily navigated. Brown and Held divide the book into six roughly equal sections with short introductions each offering context prefixing. The first section, ‘Kant and Contemporary Cosmopolitanism,’ begins by returning to the roots of modern cosmopolitanism´s thinking in Kant’s ‘Idea of a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose’ before reflecting on Kant’s influence on cosmopolitanism theory and practice with contributions by Brown, Martha C. Nussbaum and Onora O’Neill. The second section turns its focus to notions of international justice with the inclusions from Brian Barry and Thomas Pogge being noteworthy for their focus on the tension between state sovereignty and cosmopolitanism notions of international society. The third section, ‘Cosmopolitanism, Nationality, States and Culture’ and the fourth, ‘Cosmopolitan Politics,’ are solid representations of the cosmopolitanism perspectives on social and political organisation within states, while the fifth section, ‘Cosmopolitanism, Global Issues, and Governance’ highlights similar issues on an international level. In this last section Mary Kaldor’s ‘Humanitarian Intervention: Towards a Cosmopolitan Approach’ and Patrick Hayden’s ‘The Environment, Global Justice and World Environmental Citizenship’ both illustrate that the cosmopolitan approach is a viable option for those seeking either evolution or revolution in international governance, particularly as the world continues its trajectory towards global interdependence and interconnectedness.
The sixth and final section is perhaps the weakest of the book. Entitled ‘Cosmopolitan Examinations and Critiques,’ this finale sets out to counter the previously espoused cosmopolitan positions. The criticisms, though, are rather limited and the reader, having already perused some 370 pages of cosmopolitan argumentation, is left with only around 60 pages of dissenting voice. This would perhaps be sufficient, if only that dissenting voice was given the opportunity to truly speak. In comments prefacing this section Brown and Held maintain that the critiques to follow are included in an attempt to ‘confront [cosmopolitanism’s] most profound critics head-on and then prove them wrong’ (p. 373). Yet the collected criticisms only offer a slice of the wider critiques of the approach. Miller’s ‘Cosmopolitanism’ points to issues with the approaches moral universalism, Nagel points to practical issues in ‘The Problem of Global Justice,’ while selections from the work of Derrida, Dahl and Kymlicka critique fundamental claims of the cosmopolitan school. Worthy critiques all, but one is left wondering why theorists like Walzer (on international justice) or any of the many realist scholars in international relations, all of whom ascribe very different motivations to international action by states and define clear limits on cooperation between international actors, were excluded. These critiques of cosmopolitanism, for all the good intentions of the editors, clearly lack the same depth that makes the rest of the volume so valuable.
The broad appeal and wide applications of cosmopolitan theory means The Cosmopolitanism Reader will find its audience in multiple disciplines. Among them, of course, are political science and international relations, though it would be appreciated by those scholars specialising in philosophy, sociology and even economics. Most suited to a scholarly audience, the collection makes an excellent centrepiece for a graduate course on cosmopolitanism thought and reference for graduate or undergraduate students seeking a single volume that draws together historical and contemporary cosmopolitanism thought. Indeed, notwithstanding the relatively weak final section, this book is a significant contribution on a theme that is only becoming more relevant in our globalising world.