Cosmopolitanism and International Relations Theory
Reviewer: Michaela Davidova (Metropolitan University Prague)
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The global nature of challenges and the need for global solutions has been increasing the importance of globalisation and cosmopolitanism may be considered as a theoretical framework for understanding globalisation. The influence of cosmopolitanism is increasing with growing interdependence. That said, the main goal of this book is to grasp the gap between theoretical constructs of moral cosmopolitanism and political thought by developing a dialogue between cosmopolitanism and theories of international relations. Beardsworth regards the ideas of cosmopolitanism and liberalism as necessarily linked in some constellation or other within the contemporary fields of political thought and IR and therefore rehearses cosmopolitan concerns as a whole in the context of modern liberalism and its avatars. In order to develop an analytical framework, Beardsworth interrogates cosmopolitanism with three theories of IR most critical of liberal universalism: realism, Marxism (and its avatars), and postmodern IR thought. The author’s methodology is based on a series of debates between the basic assumptions of these schools, and their critiques of contemporary cosmopolitanism(s), and consequently on a cosmopolitan response to these assumptions and critiques. This complex framework of debates argues for a sophisticated contemporary cosmopolitan disposition that assumes contemporary dilemmas among morality, legality and politics.
The book is structured into four main parts. Beardsworth begins with a historical and theoretical account of cosmopolitan dispositions. This part itself constructs four main points for later discussion: the complex status of the normative in cosmopolitanism; the distinction between strong and weak forms of cosmopolitanism; the important differences between modalities of cosmopolitanism; and need of complementarity of different types of cosmopolitanism in the field of IR. In the three remaining parts of the book Beardsworth provides space for critique and responses of cosmopolitanism to realism, Marxism and postmodernism. An exposition of universalism on the three debates provides a sophisticated articulation of cosmopolitanism. The book argues for: a tiered multilayered analysis of cosmopolitan responsibility; a responsibility that depends on the complementarity between moral, legal and institutional position of contemporary cosmopolitanism and on constant need of political legitimacy, given the lack of world government; a responsibility that advocates a differentiated form of universalism; and one that is accompanied at the moment of political decision making political judgements.
A problematic aspect of the work could be Beardsworth’s choice of contrasting theories. Especially confusing is the part devoted to Marxism, which is devoted not only to simple Marxist theory but also to post-Marxism. Such forms the basis of another confusing point; using postmodernism as a critical opponent of cosmopolitanism. Postmodernist approaches are very broad and the author mainly follows the intellectual legacies of Foucault, Agamben and Derrida, but, for example, the aforementioned post-Marxism could be also considered as a postmodernist approach.
The main advantages of this book are based on thorough research, fruitful discussion and many empirical examples. Beardsworth’s way of communicating with the reader, through the entire book, is also noteworthy since its helps with the other all flow of the text. On the other hand, even though aim of this book does not centre on political theories as such, but rather on critical aspects of universalism, some parts are too devoted to describing the contours of these theories. In order to spark debate between cosmopolitanism and its critics it is unnecessary to engage in deep analysis of such theories and this book would be more interesting for readers if Beardsworth omitted the introduction to IR theories altogether.
In sum, this book is an essential reader for students of international relations theory and those seeking a foundational text to cosmopolitanism with clear depictions of the linkage and responses to its critics.