Andrew Linklater. Handbook of Citizenship Studies. Editor: Engin F Isin & Bryan S Turner. Sage Publication. 2002.
The idea of cosmopolitan or world citizenship seems to have first appeared in Ancient Greece in the fourth century BC when the polis and the civic virtues associated with it were in obvious decline. The cynic philosopher, Diogenes, called himself a citizen of the world because he believed the polis no longer had first claim upon the individual’s political allegiances. In Diogenes’ thought, the idea of world citizenship was used to criticise the polis rather than to develop some vision of a universal community of humankind. Enlightenment thinkers such as Kant used the concept of world citizenship more positively to promote a stronger sense of moral obligation between the members of separate sovereign states. Since the Second World War, members of global social movements have resurrected the notion of cosmopolitan citizenship to defend a stronger sense of collective and individual responsibility for the world as a whole and to support the development of effective global institutions for tackling global poverty and inequality, environmental degradation and the violation of human rights (Dower, 2000: 553). Several analysts of social movements maintain that cosmopolitan citizenship is a key element in the quest for a new language of politics which challenges the belief that the individual’s central political obligations are to the nation-state. Cosmopolitan citizenship is regarded as a key theme in the continuing search for universal rights and obligations which bind all peoples together in a just world order.
The belief that global problems can be solved by establishing cosmopolitan rights and duties certainly does not go unchallenged. Critics have argued that cosmopolitan projects are likely to be the vehicles for particular political interests which wrap themselves in the language of universality. Many point to the danger that new forms of cultural imperialism will result from efforts to lay down rights and duties which apply to human beings everywhere. Others argue that efforts to break the nexus between the citizen and the state are destined to fail because there is no sense of international community which can support the sophisticated forms of citizenship which exist within democratic societies. One concern is that the defence of cosmopolitan citizenship is not only merely rhetorical but dangerous since it detracts from the more urgent business of preserving the nation-state.
This chapter begins by considering criticisms of world citizenship which argue that citizenship properly so-called exists only within bounded political communities: nation-states. The next task is to assess three ways in which the concept has been used in cosmopolitan political theory and practice: to strengthen cosmopolitan duties to the members of other political communities; to champion individual human rights as set out in the developing realm of world or cosmopolitan law; and to endorse the political project of creating a worldwide public sphere which extends the democratic project beyond national boundaries. The aim of the discussion is to determine whether or not the idea of cosmopolitan citizenship can be defended from the criticisms which have been leveled against it.
Critics of Cosmopolitan Citizenship
The simplest and most eloquent challenge to the idea of cosmopolitan citizenship has been put forward by Michael Walzer (1994) who has maintained that: ‘I am not a citizen of the world… I am not even aware that there is a world such that one could be a citizen of it. No one has ever offered me citizenship, or described the naturalisation process, or enlisted me in the world’s institutional structures, or given me an account of its decision procedures… or provided me with a list of the benefits and obligations of citizenship, or shown me the world’s calendar and the common celebrations and commemorations of its citizens.’
Three points are worth making about this striking comment. The first is that Walzer argues that national citizens have a clear sense of belonging to a bounded political community; they enjoy common sentiments born from their shared historical experience; and they regard certain dates which define their unique history as particularly worthy of celebration. However much globalization may impinge on their lives, and however much it may encourage them to think of the world as a whole, it has not altered the fact that there are no equivalent historical points of reference which are important for the entire human race. It is therefore essential to distinguish between the domain in which citizenship has real meaning and significance—the democratic nation-state—and the domain in which it has no obvious meaning at all—the world at large.
A second point is that the common culture which binds national citizens together enables them to agree on the precise rights and duties which are constitutive of their membership of a distinctive political community. Because there is no global political culture it is hardly surprising that human beings have not reached an agreement about the rights and duties that world citizens can expect from each other; and it is unremarkable that the world lacks cosmopolitan political institutions which are empowered to uphold the rights and obligations of cosmopolitan citizens. The central implication of this argument is that although the idea of cosmopolitan citizenship may well embody noble moral aspirations, and although it may have the welcome effect of persuading individuals to take their global responsibilities more seriously, it distorts the true meaning of citizenship. To be a citizen in the true sense of the word is to possess rights and duties which are defined by law and protected by the institutions of the state.
A third point, the most important of all, is that citizenship refers to the right of participation and representation in politics. To be a citizen of a state is to be a co-legislator, if not directly through the forms of active political participation which brought Greek citizens together in the polis then indirectly through elected representatives who decide for the whole political community within a democratic public sphere. Walzer stresses that there is no equivalent form of joint rule within world society; nor is there is a global public sphere which brings cosmopolitan citizens together to legislate for humanity as a whole. What is most obviously missing from the idea of cosmopolitan citizenship is the notion of participation in politics which is at the heart of the civic ideal.
Walzer’s critique of world citizenship is part of a broader, essentially communitarian argument which claims that each political community must have the right to decide who can become a member and who can be turned away. The right of social closure, he argues, is essential if each political community is to preserve its distinctive cultural identity. To argue for bounded political communities in this way may seem to embrace moral parochialism which breeds disinterest in, if not outright hostility to, outsiders. But this is not Walzer’s position. A passionate defence of moral obligations to alien outsiders exists especially in his remarks on refugees who have lost the security and protection of belonging to a viable political community. He argues that bounded communities have a moral obligation to admit stateless persons if they have the resources to accommodate them and if the numbers involved do not threaten the survival of the cultural identity of the host nation. What is more, incomers have every right to expect to become full citizens with exactly the same rights as the other members of the community. Anything else, Walzer insists, would be a form of tyranny which violates the principle that all members of the political community are entitled to have their views represented in politics and the right, should they so wish, to take part in joint rule (Walzer, 1995: Ch. 2).
Walzer’s case for bounded communities is linked with a powerful defence of duties to other members of the human race, but he rejects any suggestion that the idea of cosmopolitan citizenship is essential to foster compassion for desperate strangers. All that is required in the case of the United States is that national citizens should regard themselves as ‘cosmopolitan Americans’—as national citizens with demanding moral obligations to peoples elsewhere. Nothing would be gained by inviting Americans to think of themselves as world citizens but something would be lost in the way of conceptual precision since cosmopolitan citizenship does not denote specific rights and duties of the kind that citizens have within nation-states.
Others go further by suggesting that more is at stake here than terminological exactitude. Miller (1999) argues that invitations to conceive of the self as a citizen of the world are a distraction from the more pressing task of developing civic virtues within existing national communities. His argument is that it is important to remember that political associations whose members enjoy the status of equal citizens are an unusual accomplishment in the history of government. The social preconditions of citizenship depend upon political initiatives to encourage individuals to demonstrate loyalty to their community and to make personal sacrifices in the interests of society as a whole. The democratic civic virtues which are intrinsic to citizenship have had to be nurtured within unusual bounded political communities such as the nation-state because they are unlikely to develop elsewhere. Nor is the survival of these virtues guaranteed. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that efforts to promote vague cosmopolitan ideals in a world which lacks a basic moral consensus will weaken the only form of political association which can sustain the civic ideal. The point is not to loosen the ties that bind citizens together in nation-states but to reinforce them and to ensure that they respect duties to the rest of humanity.
The upshot of these arguments is that cosmopolitan citizenship would be a meaningful concept if humanity was governed by a world state, if the rights and duties of world citizens were specified in international law, if the different peoples of the world had similar cultural beliefs and historical memories, and if they were represented in global political institutions which governed the human race. But the term is vacuous in a world of multiple bounded political communities with their different mores, their pronounced opposition to transferring sovereign powers to global economic and political institutions and their warranted scepticism that anything resembling democratic citizenship can be developed outside the nation-state.
Despite these powerful objections the idea of cosmopolitan citizenship features prominently in contemporary cosmopolitan political theory and in the language of global social movements, and it is rarely linked with advocacy of world government (Dower, 2000). The principal exponents of cosmopolitan citizenship strive instead to revive the ancient Stoic ideal that individuals should regard themselves as belonging to two communities: their particular cities or states and humanity. They regard cosmopolitan citizenship as important in encouraging national citizens to take greater account of the interests of the world as a whole. They advocate cosmopolitan citizenship because sovereign nation-states which assume that the interests of co-nationals must come first are improbable instruments for tackling growing international economic inequalities, rising levels of intrastate violence and violations of human rights, and continuing environmental degradation.
The intriguing question is whether cosmopolitan citizenship is a valuable concept in a world in which sovereign nation-states remain the most powerful forms of political community, and in which citizenship and democracy remain largely national. The interesting question is whether the concept has real import in a world which is unlikely to undergo the transition to world government although it is witnessing the creation of sophisticated instruments of global governance which regulate various spheres of human interaction that cut across the boundaries between nation-states. To attempt to answer these questions the rest of this chapter asks whether the three approaches to cosmopolitan citizenship outlined earlier are a convincing response to the objections raised by the critics.
The Sphere of Cosmopolitan Duty
Classical studies of international society and international law considered one of the most fundamental questions about political community, namely what is the right relationship between duties to fellow-citizens and duties to the human race (Linklater, 1990). Thinkers such as Pufendorf (1934) in the seventeenth century, and Vattel (1916) in the eighteenth century, approached this question by envisaging an original state of nature in which all individuals were subject to the natural law and all had moral rights and duties in common. There were no legal and political institutions in the natural order which specified precisely what each individual could legitimately expect from all others. Moral rights and duties were a matter for subjective interpretation in the original condition: inevitably, individuals came into conflict over the exact nature of their duties and entitlements.
Confusion ended with the establishment of separate civil societies as individuals acquired determinate and enforceable legal rights and duties as citizens of particular sovereign states. As a result of the various social contracts which founded sovereign states, each national government had the duty to do the best it could for its fellow-citizens while remaining subject to the original natural law. Although their first duty was to their own citizens, national governments were not at liberty to ride roughshod over the interests of other peoples but they were free to decide the extent of their obligations to them. Significantly, neither Pufendorf nor Vattel, or any of the other social contract thinkers of the time, argued that duties to humanity were the duties of world citizens. Along with Walzer, Miller and other recent theorists of national citizenship, the classical writers on the state and international society believed that citizenship referred to a particular legal and political status which individuals acquired by virtue of their membership of particular sovereign states.
The essence of Pufendorf and Vattel’s position was that duties to fellow citizens are more fundamental than duties to humankind. The difficulty with this standpoint was highlighted by Rousseau who argued in the Abstract of the Abbe de Saint-Pierre’s Project for Perpetual Peace that the transition from the state of nature to civil society did not solve the problem of order as the social contract thinkers had suggested. The reality following the establishment of separate states was that ‘each one of us (is) in the civil state as regards our fellow citizens, but in the state of nature as regards the rest of the world (and) we have taken all kinds of precautions against private wars only to kindle national wars a thousand times more terrible’ (Rousseau, 1970: 132). Rousseau did not proceed to imagine a cosmopolitan solution to this tragic consequence of establishing separate political communities. He argued that those who claim to love humanity invariably end up loving no-one at all. His preference was for small autarchic republics in which close civic ties were not permanently under threat from cosmopolitan moralities and transcendent religions (Hoffmann, 1965; Miller, 1999: 67). But for other moral and political philosophers, the impossibility of autarchy and the undesirability of world government is the reason for promoting cosmopolitan citizenship. Its role is to ensure that the sense of moral community is not confined to co-nationals but embraces the species as a whole. It is designed to preserve a sense of universal morality in a world of separate, sovereign states which are strongly inclined to put their individual interests ahead of the welfare of humanity.
Kant was the first major political philosopher to use the idea of cosmopolitan citizenship to challenge exclusionary sovereign states. In so doing, he drew upon the Stoic conception of the equality of all human beings as exemplified by Cicero’s claim that since ‘we are all subject to a single law of nature… we are bound not to harm anyone’ (quoted in Nussbaum, 1997: 31). Exactly the same duty to avoid harm to others had been defended earlier by Pufendorf and other social contract theorists, but Kant protested that they had not taken the harm principle seriously in their reflections on international relations. Although Kant was more forceful in defending the harm principle, his idea of world citizenship was curiously limited in scope. All the moral law governing ‘citizens of a universal state of humanity’ required was the duty of hospitality to travellers and traders visiting their lands (Kant, 1970: 206). The ‘universal state of humanity’ in question was not a form of world government, a condition Kant opposed because it would be insensitive to cultural differences and so remote from everyday life as to create the possibility of despotism. The sovereign equality of states and its corollary, the duty of nonintervention, formed the bedrock of Kant’s philosophy of international relations but space was left for a limited conception of world citizenship which affirmed the existence of a universal community of humankind alongside the system of states.
It is possible to enlarge Kant’s conception of world citizenship by drawing on other elements of his theory of international relations. These include his claim that the European powers should respect the independence of non-European peoples in line with the fundamental moral obligation not to harm other peoples (Williams and Booth, 1996: 91). They include his central theoretical claim that sovereign states should conduct their external relations in accordance with the principle of publicity, and his related contention that states should be bound by moral principles which apply equally to all. Arguably, a richer conception of world citizenship is implicit in Kant’s claim that all individuals and peoples who are in a position to affect or harm one another are required to create a civil constitution and obligated to progress together towards ‘a cosmopolitan condition of general political security’ (Kant, 1970a: 210; 1970b: 49).
Deepening global problems over roughly the last century have encouraged many thinkers to develop this broader conception of world citizenship while preserving Kant’s belief that its objective is to strengthen the sense of belonging to a universal community of humankind rather than to prepare the way for world government. Indiscriminate violence against civilians during the Second World War led many to renew the challenge to the belief that the state is entitled to impose unnecessary suffering on outsiders to ensure military victory or to spare its citizens’ lives. Indifference to the plight of the global poor and to the victims of human rights abuse has been a second reason for the revival of interest in cosmopolitan citizenship. Inadequate responses to environmental degradation have provided a third stimulus for reviving and developing the idea of world citizenship. In reaction to these developments, political theorists and activists have used the concept of cosmopolitan citizenship to challenge the idea that the first responsibility of the state is to promote the welfare of its own citizens. Beyond that, the concept has been used to try to instil more powerful individual responsibilities for other societies and for the planet as a whole. The idea of global environmental citizenship is especially important in this regard. It has been a central theme in efforts to strengthen and disseminate a belief in personal responsibility for what Arendt (1973: 66) called the aspects of public life that fall within our reach (see Christoff, 1996; Falk, 1994; Heater, 1990: 163-4, 1996; van Steenbergen, 1994).
Arguably, one dimension of what Miller (1999) calls republican citizenship is evident in the idea of global environmental citizenship. This is a sense of personal responsibility for others and the desire to act for the sake of some wider public good.1 But Miller maintains that the similarities are more apparent than real because the civic virtues which typify the republican citizenship are combined with respect for all members of the political community and with the desire to find a compromise position between competing views. There are no warranties, Miller argues, that good environmental citizens will subscribe to the same political ethic. Indeed, some participants within global social movements have social and political commitments which effectively rule out compromise with their opponents. Miller’s fundamental point is that the willingness to make personal sacrifices for the sake of the greater collective good is almost impossible to nurture in the absence of the ties of common nationality.
Miller raises a central question for exponents of cosmopolitan citizenship who use the term to encourage a stronger sense of responsibility for the wider world. This is how to distinguish political conduct which is authentically cosmopolitan from political action which is a vehicle for parochial interests and culturally biased world-views. Some account of the cosmopolitan virtues which are the counterpart of national civic virtues has to be provided, but this may be difficult to achieve because of major disputes about what it means to act in a cosmopolitan manner. Various disagreements about the rights and wrongs of humanitarian intervention in world politics illustrate the critical point. As the debate over NATO’s action against Serbia revealed, major differences exist between those who believe there is a cosmopolitan duty to breach national sovereignty to protect human rights and those who believe that ‘humanitarian war’ is the latest example of the West’s inclination to impose its will on others (Linklater, 2000). In various parts of the Third World, references to humanitarian intervention conjure up images of the reinstatement of Western imperialism, and cosmopolitan citizenship is likely to be regarded as a possible vehicle for the promotion of Western interests (Zolo, 1997: xiv). Just as various forms of ethical universalism have been criticised because they reflect particular cultural preferences (inevitably, if there is ‘no view from nowhere’) so are appeals to cosmopolitan citizenship bound to raise the suspicion that Western cultural preferences or prejudices will be imposed on others.
The critics may also argue that even if some genuinely universal ethic did exist, the concept of cosmopolitan citizenship would be vulnerable to two other lines of criticism. The first is that the nonperformance of personal moral responsibilities and global duties associated with world citizenship might lead to personal shame or guilt but the potential beneficiaries of acts of cosmopolitan citizenship have no court of appeal if others fail to help them. They are dependent on charitable actions which it may be virtuous to perform but which potential beneficiaries cannot claim as of right. The second objection, which is central to Walzer’s critique, is that appeals to cosmopolitan citizenship merely stress duties to outsiders; there is no reference to traditional conceptions of politics which stress rights of representation or participation in politics—the rights which distinguish subjects from citizens. On such grounds do the critics build their argument that the advocates of cosmopolitan citizenship are guilty of corrupting the true meaning of citizenship.
Those who endorse world citizenship reject this argument. Some, like Dower (2000), champion the concept in order to challenge the traditional assumption that duties to fellow-citizens take precedence over duties to the rest of the human race. Their most important line of argument does not simply state that individuals should feel a stronger sense of responsibility to other peoples, or concern for the environment. The larger point is that across a growing range of issues there are no compelling reasons for preferring the interests of co-nationals to the interests of foreigners. The idea of world citizenship is employed to defend the Stoic conception of belonging to a bounded political community and a wider moral community which includes all humankind. It is also used in support of practical efforts to create stronger transnational moral solidarities and global political institutions authorised to protect human interests. Writers such as Dower (2000: 559, 564) argue that the difference between those who defend cosmopolitan citizenship and those who claim that it is a pale invitation of national citizenship is that the former are more strongly committed than the latter to a ‘robust global ethic.’ The charge is that critics of cosmopolitan citizenship such as Miller may defend global moral obligations but they do not take the necessary step of challenging the traditional belief that the most important obligations arise in relations between co-nationals.
Debates about cosmopolitan citizenship reveal a clear tension between those who think that citizenship is linked with strong attachments to an existing political community—and the desire to make personal sacrifices for its welfare—and those who believe that citizenship includes efforts to transform national political communities until their behaviour is powerfully influenced by the Stoic-Christian belief in the unity of humankind. Given their normative commitments, it is not surprising that proponents of cosmopolitan citizenship have been eager to stress that linkages between citizenship and the nation-state have developed recently—in the period since the French Revolution. Heater (1990) argues that citizenship was attached to the city before it came to be coupled with the territorial state, and there is no reason to suppose that it cannot become more closely linked with European political institutions and, in time, with the world at large.
Miller has been criticised for defining citizenship too narrowly and for devaluing the efforts of international nongovernmental organisations and global social movements to build a global political community (Dower, 2000). A related point is that the critics of world citizenship beg several important questions about political community—that its identity and purposes are clearly settled; that co-nationals do not have any difficulties with its place in the wider world; and that citizens are satisfied with the rights it claims against other societies as well as with the obligations it has to them and to the physical world (Bankowski and Christodoulidis, 1999). But defenders of cosmopolitan citizenship are invariably dissatisfied with the nation-state and concerned about its lack of commitment to a robust global ethic. They argue that the criticism that the nation-state is the only community in which effective citizenship can be enjoyed, and the accusation that efforts to promote cosmopolitan citizenship are departures from citizenship properly so-called, have the effect of conferring legitimacy on imperfect political arrangements and foreclosing an inquiry into how new forms of political community can institutionalise the cosmopolitan ideal (Linklater, 1999: 36). Critics of cosmopolitanism citizenship may respond by arguing that universalistic ethical commitments which are profoundly anti-statist are driving these observations about the value of national citizenship. The counter argument is that efforts to define citizenship in national terms are not neutral but are inherently political because they privilege the nation-state along with a communitarian rather than a robust global ethic. The key observation is that an unacknowledged or unsupported conservatism underlies the critique of cosmopolitan citizenship (Dower, 2000: 560).
The Sphere of Cosmopolitan Rights
Whereas the first conception of world citizenship stresses the need for compassion for non-nationals, personal responsibility for the environment and action to create more cosmopolitan forms of political community, the second conception begins with the development of a system of universal human rights. It believes that the ‘human race can gradually be brought closer and closer to a constitution establishing world citizenship’ through the evolution of cosmopolitan law which enshrines such rights (Kant, in Booth/Williams, 1996: 91). The belief that cosmopolitan citizenship is developing in this way can be regarded as a major advance beyond the idea of cosmopolitan moral duty discussed earlier. Critics will argue that there are no mechanisms for enforcing these rights, and they will stress that the second conception of cosmopolitan citizenship also falls short of national citizenship because it is divorced from the core notion of political representation and participation. However, its significance might be said to exist elsewhere, namely in challenging the traditional assumption that states are the sole or main subjects of international law. What the second approach to cosmopolitan citizenship claims is that individuals are members of international society and subjects of international law in their own right.
Key developments in the realm of cosmopolitan rights include the Nuremberg Conventions which give military personnel the right as well as the duty to disobey superior orders to commit crimes against humanity. Additional contributions to the legal constitution establishing the rights of world citizens include the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the 1984 Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1966 International Covenant on Social and Political Rights can also be regarded as important advances in establishing the rights of world citizens. International law concerning the rights of the child and the rights of indigenous peoples and minority nations also sets out rights which all individuals should have as members of a world society. Critics may argue that the dominant conceptions of human rights embody the global aspirations of the liberal-democratic West; they may insist that the universal moral imperatives which are inherent in these developments lack sensitivity to the cultural preferences of non-Western societies in an epoch in which one of the main demands within nation-states is for ‘group differentiated citizenship’—that is for different rights for different groups in the same political community (Young, 1990). These are points to return to in the next section. As for the claim that there are no instruments for punishing violations of human rights, the emerging international criminal court, and the recent challenge to the principle of sovereign immunity where heads of states are deemed guilty of human rights violations, suggest to some that the modern world may be on the threshold of a new era of ‘cosmopolitan law enforcement’ (Kaldor, 1999: 10-11).
Although many believe the sphere of cosmopolitan rights simply extends the dominion of certain liberal-democratic values, others welcome this phase in the development of the commitment to univer salistic beliefs on the part of modern states. As Honneth (1995: 115-18) has maintained, the development of universalism is evident in the institutionalisation of the claim that all citizens are entitled to the same rights and liberties irrespective of their class, race, religion, ethnic identity or gender. The growth of universalism in the sense of pressure on one of the constitutive principles of the modern state—the principle of moral favouritism which maintains that efforts to promote the interests of fellow-citizens are to be preferred to efforts to promote the welfare of aliens—has been much slower to develop. Nonetheless, the growth of world or cosmopolitan law, which differs from the classical international law because it is concerned with protecting the rights of all individuals rather than the interests of states, is a small monument to Kant’s conviction that a violation of human rights in any one part of the world will be felt everywhere in an enlightened age (Kant, 1970: 216).
Critics of cosmopolitan citizenship doubt whether these developments represent a major advance in world citizenship. In an argument close to Miller’s, Neff (1999) argues that international lawyers are often sympathetic to the normative claims of those that expound the merits of cosmopolitan citizenship but there is nothing to suggest that the idea of world citizenship contributes to international legal thinking. The outlook of the international lawyers ‘substantially accords’ with the republican conception of citizenship defended by Miller (ibid: 106). Interestingly, Miller (1999: 74) argues that the idea that ‘individual people can invoke international law against their own state does bring us closer to a recognisable ideal of citizenship.’ He adds that this ‘is at most a thin version of liberal citizenship’ since the ‘citizen is not a lawmaker’ in any real sense. Moreover, in the absence of common national sentiments in world politics, it is better to modify national law so that it does justice to cosmopolitan obligations than to create international law which can override the law of the state (Miller, 1999: 74-6).
As noted earlier, an equally important point is that international and cosmopolitan law generally lack the enforcement measures which states use to uphold domestic law. Individual persons have rights according to international law, but the convention has been that national governments are responsible for upholding these rights. Vulnerable individuals and groups may go outside the state in search of allies in their struggle to ensure respect for human rights, but few have the liberty to protest against injustices in international courts of law.
Reflecting on these themes, Neff (1999: 113) has distinguished between two ways in which international law can be used to promote global reform: the first is the ‘dualist’ approach in which changes are agreed at the international level and subsequently incorporated into domestic law; the second and less common is the ‘monist’ approach ‘in which international legal rules become directly applicable even without state action.’ Most international conventions on human rights fall into the former category, and the nation-state remains the ‘proximate source of the rights that… individuals have’ (ibid: 115, italics in original). But monism underpins important recent developments in the international criminal law. The Nuremberg trials held that it was irrelevant whether war crimes ‘were lawful in Germany at the time they were committed. They were unlawful under international law, irrespective of their status in German law’ (ibid: 116, italics in original). Monism is also evident in the principles governing the International Tribunal which is authorised to prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of humanitarian law in the former Yugoslavia.3 But as Neff (1999: 117) points out, the Statute does not employ the concept of cosmopolitan citizenship which is ‘otiose’ in international legal conventions of this kind.
The important point is that incorporating international obligations in domestic law is not the only way of protecting individual human rights, and the role of monism in world politics seems to be growing because of human rights violations and crimes against humanity. It remains the case, however, that monism is strongest in the European Union where the principle of direct effect obliges national courts to apply Community provisions even though national legislatures have not transformed them into domestic law, and where the idea of the supremacy of Community law holds that Community law prevails when its provisions clash with national law (Preuss, 1998: 138). Some progress towards a post-national conception of citizenship which rests on notions of individual personhood rather than on any particular cultural identity has occurred in the region through the creation of various social and legal rights. In Miller’s terms, such developments in European international law represent progress in developing a liberal as opposed to a republican conception of citizenship in world politics. Support for this view is evident in the fact that the rights of European citizens are thin when compared with the rights of national citizens. Nothing in the Maastricht Treaty, for example, entitles the citizens of the member states of the European Union to come together as transnational citizens to elect members of the European Commission or to expel them from office. But as Preuss (ibid: 139 and 149) argues, the decision to uncouple citizenship from the state so that it is possible to be a ‘citizen of a supranational entity’ is ‘a major innovation in the history of political membership’ which demonstrates how the ideal of cosmopolitan citizenship might come to be embodied more fully in political practice.
The universalisation of particular liberal and democratic rights is no small achievement in an area of the world which was so frequently engulfed in systemic war, and it suggests that one should not be overly pessimistic about the prospects for post-national citizenship elsewhere, specifically given recent developments in international criminal law. Those who are suspicious of efforts to attach citizenship to associations other than the nation-state would be right to emphasise the democratic deficit in the Europe Union and correct to stress that the development of transnational democracy is improbable in the absence of strong attachments to a nation or demos. Even so, notions of cosmopolitan citizenship which stress the rights of human beings in a ‘universal state of humanity’ perform a dual function. They mark some progress in the view that states have responsibilities to protect the legal rights of all human beings, irrespective of their nationality or citizenship, and they make significant inroads into the state’s claim to be the sole subject of international law. Approaches to cosmopolitan citizenship which defend the sphere of cosmopolitan rights assert that individuals, considered as human beings rather than citizens, have sound claims to possess international legal personality.
The Sphere of Cosmopolitan Democracy
Critics of the two approaches to cosmopolitan citizenship which have been considered thus far argue they fall short of national citizenship because they are uncoupled from the notion of participation in politics.
However, those who think that cosmopolitan citizenship is to be found in the development of a robust global ethic and in the development of the universal human rights culture rarely leave the discussion there. Many participate in and support international nongovernmental organisations (INGOs) such as Amnesty International and Greenpeace in order to promote respect for cosmopolitan principles in a world of states; and in an increasingly prominent trend, many are actively involved or supportive of efforts to democratise global politics. The participation of INGOs in United Nations conferences, and the parallel conferences on the environment and on women which took place at Rio de Janeiro and Beijing, are the most important indicators of this latter trend. Also important are claims for more democratic and accountable international organisations which were among the demands made in Seattle and Prague to coincide with meetings of the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund. Participants in the development of an international civil society and those who analyse them frequently use the idea of cosmopolitan citizenship to describe their moral commitments and political engagement (Boli and Thomas, 1999: 39-41, 73-7; Finnemore, 1999: 150; Dower 2000: 567).
These emergent trends in world politics resonate with many of the themes which are central to the cosmopolitan turn in democratic political theory (Archibugi, Held and Kohler, 1998; Held, 1995). Three arguments in favour of cosmopolitan democracy have been put forward by its main proponents. The first is that ‘… the idea of popular sovereignty is doomed to decay into a mere chimera if it remains locked in the historical form of the self-asserting sovereign nation-state’ (Habermas, 1994: 165). The importance of national democracy, it is argued, has been diminished by economic globalisation which place national societies at the mercy of external social and economic forces which citizens are powerless to control. The democratic ideal must be extended into the sphere of world politics if the principles which have been secured through the achievement of national citizenship (transparency, accountability, representation, participation and so forth) are to survive.
A second argument in favour of cosmopolitan democracy is that various instruments of global governance have emerged to regulate the expanding networks of transnational social and economic interaction. As already noted, many of the international economic and political organisations which have appeared in response to the most recent phase of global interdependence face a democratic deficit because decisions do not require popular assent. Opposition to the system of global governance will intensify if Falk (1998: 320) is right that global organisations such as the UN will be the site for a major struggle between two sets of political actors: transnational business enterprises and multinational banks committed to a neoliberal global economic agenda and INGOs which seek to highlight the misery of the global poor and resist further environmental degradation. The question is how to bring global economic and political institutions into line with democratic principles of legitimacy.
A third argument for cosmopolitan democracy takes issue with the doctrine of moral favouritism which maintains that national institutions should be responsible to citizens and do not have the same duty to be accountable to alien outsiders. This model of democracy arose because it was assumed that citizens had the right to be represented in national political institutions which made decisions that affected them. Citizens could not expect to be represented in the political institutions of other political communities—nor did they believe they had a duty to grant outsiders representation in their national institutions even if decisions regarding security or trade had ruinous consequences for them (Held, 1995: 18). For most of the last two centuries, the power of nationalism in societies which lived with the expectation of violent war was not conducive to experiments in cosmopolitan democracy and, in any case, the impact of global interdependence on the populations of modern industrial states was much less than it is today. Arguably, the tension between ‘man’ and ‘citizen’ should have been of much greater concern to the citizens of modern states well before the most recent phase of globalization (Linklater, 1990). However, it is the awareness of increasing vulnerability to global forces, and the consciousness of how decisions in one country can affect peoples elsewhere, which has come to exert most pressure on the doctrine of moral favouritism. Reflecting these trends, the third argument for cosmopolitan democracy is that individuals have a moral right to be consulted about any decisions which may affect or harm them wherever these decisions may be made. The argument is that all human beings should have this right irrespective of their citizenship or nationality which, for the purposes of this argument, have no more moral importance than their age, class, gender, religion or sexuality.
The cosmopolitan turn in democratic political theory can be regarded as a radical extension of Kant’s theory of world citizenship which, as noted earlier, revolved around the duty of hospitality to strangers. One might regard it as a necessary extension of his claim that the ‘touchstone’ for deciding whether or not something is true is the possibility of ‘testing (upon) the understanding of others whether those grounds of the judgment which are valid for us have the same effect on the reason of others’ (quoted by McCarthy, 1997: 211). However, Kant was a liberal or republican thinker who did not believe the question of whether any political action would meet with the consent of all others should be tested in a democratic public sphere (Archibugi, 1995). It has been suggested that he believed that enlightened philosophers formed a cosmopolitan citizenry which would ensure that a violation of rights in any part of the world would be felt everywhere (Habermas, 1997: 124). Kant believed that world citizens would reach beyond states to mobilise world public opinion against violations of rights, but the states in question would not forego their sovereign right to be free from external interference. The political theory of cosmopolitan democracy concurs with the view that ‘Kant’s concept of a permanent federation of nations that respects the sovereignty of each is… inconsistent. The rights of the world citizen must be institutionalised in such a way that it actually binds individual governments’ (Habermas, 1997: 127-8). Developments in international criminal law provide evidence of movement in this direction. But critics of cosmopolitan citizenship and defenders of cosmopolitan democracy agree that ‘the rights of the world citizen’ are radically incomplete unless they include rights of representation or participation in global institutions (see Archibugi, Held and Kohler, 1998; Held, 1995).
Those who see themselves as cosmopolitan citizens can always raise matters of global concern within their respective national democratic systems, although this is not what the concept of cosmopolitan citizenship is usually taken to mean (Bohman, 1997: 191). That status involves the capacity to associate with others in a world-wide public sphere which makes decisions for the globe as a whole; it requires means of ensuring ‘political representation for citizens in global affairs, independently… of their political representation in domestic affairs’ (Archibugi, 1998: 211). Proponents of cosmopolitan democracy have put forward various suggestions about how institutional innovations could promote the global extension of the democratic ideal. They include direct elections to the United Nations General Assembly and the vision of a second UN Chamber which represents individuals and INGOs directly, two developments which can complement an International Criminal Court with compulsory jurisdiction over nationals who violate international humanitarian law (Archibugi, ibid: 221; Falk, 1998: 319; Habermas, 1997: 134-5).
Institutional innovations of this kind are ways of exploring the ground that lies between national democracies and a democratic world government; they are not a prelude to a universal state in which all human beings might come to have citizenship rights of the kind currently enjoyed by the citizens of separate states. Instead, these organisational innnovations would seek to extend the democratic project beyond national frontiers by democratising the instruments of global governance. It might further be argued that cosmopolitan citizenship is to be found in individual and collective efforts to promote the democratisation of world politics. The struggle to create a world-wide public sphere can be regarded as a crucial way in which cosmopolitan citizenship can exist in the absence of a world state.
There is no reason to dispute the claim that, even if the opportunities existed, the level of participation in global political institutions would still fall far short of the levels found within democratic nation-states. It is clearly true that there is no sense of international community to rival that of the nation-state. But, as Dower (2000: 557) argues, the aspirations of cosmopolitan citizens do not stand or fall on the extent to which all the attributes of national citizenship can be transferred to global political institutions. The main task is to extend elements of national citizenship (the sense of responsibility for others and the protection of individual rights including the right of voice or representation in a public sphere) into the global arena in order that large monopolies of power are accountable to those who are most affected by them. As noted earlier, attempts by INGOs to build a worldwide public sphere by participating, albeit sporadically, in global events running parallel to major United Nations conferences such as those held in Beijing and Rio de Janeiro advance the claim that global institutions should comply with principles of democratic legitimacy—and the same principle has been advanced by many though not all of the protestors in Seattle and Prague. There is every reason to suppose that pressures to democratise world politics will continue to grow, and that the extent to which they succeed will depend on whether democratic states use their influence to increase the possibility of participating in an effective worldwide public sphere.
Arguably, the most important question to ask about cosmopolitan democracy is whether any progress in democratising world politics would significantly alter the global distribution of power and wealth, and not whether anything like national citizenship can be replicated at the international level.7 Critics of the universal human rights culture have argued that this development simply reflects the West’s ability to universalise values which do not command the respect of all non-Western peoples. Some protest that efforts to promote respect for individual legal and political rights have not been accompanied by attempts to protect social and economic rights or by measures to protect the global environment. Reinforcement for these views can be found in references to the ‘new constitutionalism’ which maintain that central developments in recent international law are largely concerned with creating new opportunities for the expansion of global capitalism which will work to the advantage of highly mobile transnational elites (Gill, 1995). The upshot of these remarks for the advocates of cosmopolitan democracy is that the existing sphere of cosmopolitan rights is heavily loaded in favour of Western interests and, consequently, efforts to democratise world politics may simply consolidate Western hegemony. This is a crucial point since only the most affluent members of world society can take advantage of any increased opportunities to be represented or to participate in global politics. The largest percentage of the globally privileged live in the West or sympathise with its commitments.
If there is a counterweight to this danger it is to be found in a robust global ethic which argues that the instruments of global governance should rest on the consent of all peoples, and particularly on the consent of the weakest and most vulnerable members of world society. According to this ethical ideal, global governance is to be judged ultimately by the extent to which the vulnerable have the opportunity to protest against the harm which others do to them, to register their complaint when others benefit unfairly from their relative weakness and to seek external assistance in reducing avoidable suffering. It is to be assessed also by the extent to which global institutions—whether democratic or not—respond sympathetically to demands for the public recognition of cultural differences. The fact that the vulnerable do not have access to global political institutions in order to make these claims is the main reason why advocates of cosmopolitan citizenship attach so much importance to the sphere of cosmopolitan duty—and as previously noted, the development of a more democratic form of world politics in itself would not reduce the importance of this sphere. However remote its institutionalisation may be, the fact that reflections on this cosmopolitan ethic have come to the centre of analyses of global politics is a minor revolution in thinking about world affairs (Apel 1979, 1980; Goodin, 1985; Habermas, 1996: 514; O’Neill, 1991: 301-2).
Summary and Conclusions
Two broad approaches to cosmopolitan citizenship have been discussed in this chapter. The first maintains that citizenship properly so-called only exists within the nation-state. This is the only form of political association in which the core ideas of citizenship—the willingness to make personal sacrifices for the sake of the wider societal good and the willingness to participate in political life—are realised. There is no emerging counterpart in world politics. Appeals to world citizenship which urge individuals to take global moral responsibilities seriously may be persuasive but they empty citizenship of all meaning. The essence of this argument is that citizenship refers to political dispositions and practices which are possible only within established political communities.
Advocates of cosmopolitan citizenship maintain that citizenship can also refer to dispositions and practices which can be harnessed to transform political community and the global order so that they conform with universalistic moral commitments. One of its main roles is to persuade national citizens that they have fundamental moral responsibilities to outsiders which must not be sacrificed for the sake of national interests. The universal human rights culture is deemed to be evidence of the emerging law of world citizens; cosmopolitan citizenship is thought to be exemplified by the increasing global role of INGOs and by efforts to promote the democratisation of world politics.
The tension between these views indicates that cosmopolitan citizenship is no different from other concepts in being ‘essentially contested.’ Critics insist that cosmopolitan citizenship is impossible in the absence of a world state which grants citizens rights of representation and participation in politics. Supporters maintain that the critics have too restricted a definition of citizenship. Cosmopolitan citizenship is necessary to institutionalise serious moral commitments to outsiders, and it is desirable given the development of instruments of global governance which do not rest on popular consent.
There is no neutral way of resolving the dispute between these competing perspectives. However, important shifts in the nature and conduct of world politics, including growing expectations that global economic and political institutions should comply with democratic principles of legitimacy, tend to support those who make the case for cosmopolitan citizenship. The critics of cosmopolitan citizenship are unlikely to be persuaded that they are mistaken in arguing for a restricted conception of citizenship which is only possible within viable nation-states. But as the ties between the citizen and the state loosen, it would be foolish to assume that efforts to extend the achievement of national citizenship into the global realm are bound to be frustrated.