Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism: The Paradox of Modernity

Gerard Delanty. The Sage Handbook of Nations and Nationalism. Editor: Gerard Delanty & Krishan Kumar. 2006. Sage Publishing.

Two striking features of the present day are an apparent rise in nationalism and, on the other side, the increasing impact of global forces. This paradox of nationalism and globalization has been widely commented on and a variety of explanations is given to account for this. Globalization can be seen as creating the conditions for new nationalisms, which arise as defensive responses to global forces, or it can be seen as a response by powerful nations to the nationalism of the periphery. Nowhere is this paradox more evident than in Iraq where a transnational Islamic nationalist movement has arisen as a result of a global military campaign and much of the Middle East has been caught in a revival of nationalism under the conditions of globalization. In the United States itself the global context of alleged terrorism has driven a new wave of nationalism which has gained momentum since 2001. In an increasingly globally oriented China, nationalism has stepped into the ideological space created by the passing of the communist ideology. On a less vociferous note, nationalist movements have been on the rise throughout Europe, especially in the former communist countries. In all of these cases the transnational context has been central in bringing about changing centre-periphery relations.

No account of nationalism in its relation to the global context can neglect a second dynamic, namely the emergence of post-nationalism, that is a movement both within and beyond nationalism and which may be related to cosmopolitanism. Although there has been an undeniable expansion in nationalism worldwide since the early 1990s, a feature of the current situation, and one closely connected with globalization, is cosmopolitanism. Indeed, it is possible to speak of a revival of cosmopolitanism, which is an older tradition to that of the nation and gives expression to a different dimension of belonging to that of nationalism. For the purposes of this chapter, cosmopolitanism is a condition distinct from nationalism and from globalization. By cosmopolitanism is meant the consciousness of globality and of postnational ties; it is a critical and reflexive consciousness of heterogeneity as opposed to the quintessentially modernist spirit of an homogeneous vision of sovereign statehood. But it is too, despite its ancient origins, a modern creation and expresses the embracing of otherness and plurality. As with much of nationalism today, globalization is the context for cosmopolitanism, but the latter is also defined in terms of a tension with nationalism and makes sense only in relation to nationalism. So nationalism, globalization and cosmopolitanism are characteristic features of the present day. What then is the nature of the relation and what are the implications of cosmopolitanism for the very idea of the nation? Can the nation escape nationalism and define itself by reference to cosmopolitanism?

It would be a mistake to see cosmopolitanism and nationalism as opposed to each other and fundamentally different. Although this is a view that many critics take, the contention of this chapter is that nationalism and cosmopolitanism, which exist in a relation of tension, can be seen as complementary and it is possible to speak, with Julia Kristeva, of the idea of ‘nations without nationalism’ (Kristeva 1993). It is clearly the case that the nation is not disappearing from the world and, moreover, the nation will survive nationalism, in the sense of nationalism as a movement based on the principle that every nation must be defined in terms of an ethnicity and have a state. Nationalism in this conventional sense of the term has been a pervasive feature of the modern world and may even be the dominant feature of modernity, as Wimmer (2002) argues; however, it has also been notoriously a failure in the sense that its very success in achieving its goal has been the cause of some of the major disasters of the previous century. The nation, on the other hand, predates nationalism and while having been claimed by nationalism its continued appeal is something that cannot be denied, as critics such as Anthony Smith have argued (Smith 1995). Part of the appeal of the idea of the nation is its integral connection with a vision of human community that is seen as under threat from many forces, including from nationalism and global forces. There is considerable evidence to indicate that there are national traditions in the world which exist separately from nationalism and which have, it will be argued, a relation to cosmopolitanism. In this context some pertinent examples are Latin American traditions of the nation, the federalist notion of the nation as in Canada, German constitutional patriotism, and the emergence of postnationalism in the European Union. In these cases there is some evidence to suggest that postnationalism is a significant force in the world and the basis of a really existing cosmopolitanism as opposed to a utopian idea or a purely administrative international order (see Beck and Grande 2004).

More generally, the trend towards cosmopolitanism can be related to developments that have occurred within the nation-state. In place of the hyphen that has linked the nation to the state are now multiple points of connectivity. The cross-fertilization of all nations as a result of the many dimensions of globalization—ranging from migration, multiculturalism, global information and communication technologies, and Americanization—has loosened the links that have tied the nation to the state, a process that has led to the release of the nation from the state. This situation, which has often been characterized as a post-sovereign world, is the context in which new nationalisms emerge and also the context in which cosmopolitanism takes root. This chapter is concerned with the relation of nationhood to cosmopolitanism under the conditions of globalization. The main thesis of the chapter is that the ideas of cosmopolitanism and nationalism have been linked and the current situation points to a notion of the nation without nationalism.

The first section looks at the rise of the cosmopolitan idea in the context of the emergence of liberal nationalism in the wake of the Enlightenment. The second section discusses the decline of the cosmopolitan ideal and its transformation into xenophobic nationalism. The third section is concerned with the contemporary revivial of cosmopolitanism along with the wider transformation of nationalism.

Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in the Nineteenth Century

The origins of cosmopolitanism, it has been remarked, go back earlier than nationalism and are associated with the ancient consciousness of the world. The Greek conception of human belonging referred to the world of the polis and the cosmic order of the Gods. By means of the concept of kosmopolites, a cosmopolitan notion of belonging emerged in which the universal and particular were combined in a non-contradictory relation. The idea of cosmopolitanism developed with Stoicism towards the end of the classical Athenian period. Although it was an earlier Greek philosopher, Diogenes, who coined the term, it was the Stoics who gave it a wider meaning. Where for Diogenes it meant simply individual liberty, for the Stoics it entailed a more universalistic concept of belonging. Zeno, for instance, advocated the notion of an ideal cosmopolitan city based on membership of a wider human society. This was the sense of cosmopolitanism that influenced modern thought (Nussbaum 1997). Cosmopolitanism was reflected too in the idea of the oikoumene, meaning ‘the whole world’ or ‘the inhabited world’ and designated an identity with a broader vision of human community beyond the immediate context (see Inglis and Robertson 2005).

Thus from its inception, cosmopolitanism is an orientation that challenges a narrow and exclusivist patriotism, but it is also opposed to the view that political community must reflect a disembodied globalism, such as a predetermined universal ‘natural’ order which can only be discovered and legislated for by science or by political elites. In this sense then from the beginning cosmopolitanism asserts the entanglement of the local in the global but does not prioritize one over the other. This reading of ancient cosmopolitanism suggests a view of cosmopolitanism as a dimension that mediates between the national or local and global; it is not one, but the reflexive relation of both. The cosmopolitan is someone whose roots are not for once and for all settled. Cosmopolitanism entails the positive recognition of difference and signals a conception of belonging as open. As a critical sensibility, then, it is opposed to closure and particularism.

Cosmopolitanism did not play a significant role in medieval thought and it was not until the Enlightenment that it emerged to become a central part of the imagination of the modern era. For the Greeks, cosmopolitanism was primarily a moral condition that did not have a strong political or legal significance. Moreover, for the Greeks, cosmopolitanism was largely a disposition associated with individuals who identified themselves as citizens of the world. In this respect it differs from nationalism in lacking a collective identity. However, there is one clear strand linking the ancient and the modern conception of cosmopolitanism and it is in this too that the link with nationalism is most forcibly evident: cosmopolitanism was above all an expression of the belief in freedom. As a philosophy of freedom it had tremendous appeal for Enlightenment intellectuals and for nationalist leaders alike. Both nationalism and cosmopolitanism were based on the idea of freedom, be it the freedom of movement or the right of the nation to be free of tyranny. The emergence of the modern notion of the self-legislating subject, which lies at the heart of modern philosophical thought, gave to both nationalism and cosmopolitanism the basic animus of freedom as a political and personal goal and ideal to be pursued. Cosmopolitanism had a resonance in three major strands of Enlightenment thought which had an abiding influence on the nineteenth century and beyond: republicanism, liberal nationalism and Kantian cosmopolitanism.

Like cosmopolitanism, republicanism is an older movement than nationalism and with ancient origins but differs from cosmopolitanism in its conception of peoplehood in terms of a territorial community of self-legislating subjects. Although having numerous forms, republicanism in particular in the American tradition tended towards particularism in its view of the political community as a community of fate. But much of that tradition—including the Jeffersonian tradition—was open to the cosmopolitan orientation to the world and to the principle of human freedom. The most famous example of republicanism and cosmopolitanism as co-existing was the French Revolution. The principles of the revolution were held to be universal and applicable to all nations fighting injustice and tyranny. In this sense the spread of the French Revolution and the ideas to which it gave rise across Europe in the first half of the nineteenth century reflected the cosmopolitanism of the idea of a human republic based on freedom. Tom Paine wrote: ‘The true idea of a great nation is that which extends and promotes the principles of universal society; whose mind arises above the atmosphere of local thought, and considers mankind of whatever nation or profession they may be as the work of the Creator’ (cited in Schlereth 1977: 106). La Patrie signified a belief in equality, justice, tolerance and freedom for the Enlightenment. Thomas Schlereth, in his study of Enlightenment cosmopolitan thought, refers to this kind of cosmopolitanism as humanitarian nationalism and a contrast to an unchecked nationalism (Schlereth 1977: 109). But of course it is evident that this mixture of republicanism and cosmopolitanism can equally be seen in terms of nationalism, since it was the nationalism of the French republic that promoted this kind of cosmopolitanism. In time, with the transition from the republican nation to the centralized French republican state, the subordination of nationalism to cosmopolitanism is precisely what happened: cosmopolitanism became associated with the French aspiration to be a world power.

If republican cosmopolitanism was a national project and one closely associated with the patriotism of the French republican state, the other face of cosmopolitanism reflected minority nationalism. Liberal nationalism was the dominant nationalist movement of the early nineteenth century and can be contrasted to the state patriotism of the established nation-state; it emerged from the 1820s—along with the Greek national cause—and, although like all nationalist movements of the age, it was elitist in leadership, unlike republicanism, which had become a state patriotism, it embodied a populism that was to prove enduring. The cosmopolitan dimension of this nationalism consists of a view that had gained widespread support in the nineteenth century that nations of a certain size had a right to become independent from the major powers. The famous examples of this are the Greek, Bulgarian, Italian and Irish nationalist movements, which gained the support of liberals, most notably from the 1870s the Liberal Party in Britain under the leadership of William Gladstone. Liberal nationalism within a broad cosmopolitanism found a major expression in Giuseppe Mazzine’s Young Europe League, founded in Berne in 1834, which promoted the idea of self-determination as the principle by which the political map of Europe should be drawn. The movement led to several other such leagues, such as Young Poland, Young Italy and Young Ireland, which all pursued this goal. For this movement there was no contradiction between a European cosmopolitanism and the creation of sovereign republican nations. Kok-Chor Tan (2004) has argued that there is no fundamental contradiction between the principle of self-determination that is the basis of liberal nationalism and cosmopolitan political aspirations. Indeed, nationalism itself is a demonstration of the cosmopolitan principle that people can image a political community beyond the context of their immediate world. Moreover, cosmopolitanism requires an acknowledgement of national forms of attachment.

The third strand in nineteenth-century cosmopolitanism is the Kantian internationalist one. In his Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purposein 1784 Kant recognized the limits of the existing international arena in which nations were not bound to international norms. Where international law is based only on conventions and treaties, a cosmopolitan order would be based on a legal order that sets normative standards for what states can do both within their domestic jurisdiction and beyond. In this sense, cosmopolitanism goes beyond the limits of internationalism to a view of the world as fundamentally connected. He believed history was leading to the creation of a cosmopolitan republican order which would replace a world of national republican nations. In a later essay in 1775, Towards Perpetual Peace, he modified this somewhat utopian position with a more realistic argument that a cosmopolitan law would limit the actions of states. In this view, cosmopolitanism would slowly emerge out of a process of enlightenment in which states would recognize the need for a new normative international order. According to Robert Fine, this was not just an abstract idea in the head of a philosopher but a reality. Referring to Hegel’s reworking of Kant, he argues this was a social fact of the modern age and a very real part of the social world, manifest not only in new international laws but also in new moral frameworks (Fine 2003a). This Enlightenment conception of cosmopolitanism was influential throughout the nineteenth century. It influenced republican political thought and liberal nationalism, but it also created a distinctive tradition which has been expressed in federalism and in the European idea as well as in various internationalist movements (see Bohman and Lutz-Bachmann 1997).

It can, of course, be noted that both cosmopolitanism and nationalism are territorial concepts. One resting on a belief in the territorial basis of belonging and the other based on freedom from a specific territory. Although it is not the defining tenet of cosmopolitanism, it has been closely related to a belief that the individual can transcend and move beyond and between the territories of nations. The entwine-ment of nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the nationalist movements and political thought of the nineteenth century also confirms the argument made earlier, namely that most, if not all, nations in the modern world, and in particular those that were created in the nineteenth century, contain within their national imaginaries a cosmopolitan strand. Nowhere is this more evident than in the much debated relation between nationality and citizenship (Habermas 1992). Cosmopolitanism, with republicanism, shares a basic belief in the centrality of citizenship in the sense of a conception of the person and their rights as defined by birth as opposed to inherited privilege. While today we may no longer accept this definition of citizenship, in its time it was part of a progressive movement towards democratization and the recognition of the autonomy of the individual against the received values of the past such as the view that all people are part of a natural order in which some are signalled out by rank or class to social privilege.

It was only with the descent into xenophobic nationalism from the early twentieth century that this consciousness was lost. Cosmopolitanism expresses the universalistic dimension of the nation and is in tension with particularistic ten dencies. It may be suggested that cosmopolitanism as a movement towards openness resists the drive to closure that is a feature of the nation-state. The revival of cosmopolitanism today is symptomatic of the crisis of the nation-state in much the same way as the earlier emergence of nineteenth-century cosmopolitanism was an expression of the ancien regime. But the utopianism of a new age of nation-states within a cosmopolitan order lost its utopianism by the early twentieth century.

From Cosmopolitanism to Nationalism in the Twentieth Century

Few works capture the decline of the cosmopolitanism idea better than Frederich Meinecke’s famous work Cosmopolitanism and the National State, originally published in German in 1907. Meinecke was struck by the gradual demise of the cosmopolitanism of the nineteenth century and the concomitant rise of the national state. For Meinecke, a German liberal nationalist, this was a positive development and reflected a broadly liberal view of nationalism as the inheritor of the cosmopolitan project. It was Meinecke’s view that ‘the true, the best German national feeling also includes the cosmopolitan ideal of a humanity beyond nationality and that it is “unGerman to be merely German” (Meinecke 1970: 21). Meinecke, who introduced the now familiar distinction between the ‘cultural nation’ and the ‘political nation,’ argued the German Enlightenment notion of the cultural nation had been cosmopolitan but in resting on an intellectual universalism it was too weak to be politically effective since it lacked a clear focus on the state. The political nation needed more than lofty ideals, he argued.

Clearly this was a position that had not been informed by the two world wars that were to follow and it is not impossible to imagine that Meinecke and other liberal patriots of the age, such as Max Weber, who held similar uncritical views, might have been less enthusiastic about the rise of the national state had they been writing at a later period. But until 1914 it was possible for German liberals to be hopeful about the promise of the nation-state. This was, after all, a country that had only recently been unified and a country where the intellectuals and professional class were highly cosmopolitan, having, as Liah Greenfeld remarks, only lately discovered nationalism (Greenfeld 1992). However, it was obvious to everyone that cosmopolitanism alone was not going to solve the problems of the age.

The Germans were enthusiastic cosmopolitans, but became even more enthusiastic about nationalism, which quickly overshadowed cosmopolitanism. Two developments are noteworthy concerning the fate of cosmopolitanism in the twentieth century: the demise of cosmopolitanism into a xenophobic fear of diversity, on the one hand, and on the other, the decline of an international normative order.

For most of the first half of that century the notion of cosmopolitanism was associated with the outsider and indicated a fundamentally pejorative condition of deracination. The cosmopolitan was epitomized by the Jew and came to signify the outsider within. The xenophobic and racist climate that developed in Europe from World War I onwards represented not merely a turning away from the cosmopolitanism of the nineteenth century, in Meinecke’s terms, but the reversal of it. Gone was the idea of the national community as the embodiment of cosmopolitan ideas; instead was a view of the cosmopolitan as an other to be excluded from the national polity. With this too came a shift in many countries from citizenship in terms of birth to a national citizenship based on descent.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century population increase as a result of urbanization and industrialization led to greater and more mixed cities. In an age of empire-building the increasing mix and flow of peoples led to a shift in the meaning of cosmopolitanism in the direction of a fear of otherness. Nationalism lost its liberal underpinnings and with scientific racism on the rise, fear and otherness combined to forge xenophobia. The cosmopolitan is associated with the socially uprooted and with the decadence of the cosmopolitan city to which the national state had an ambivalent relation. As pointed out by Eleanor Kofman, migrants, outcasts and refugees were the new cosmopolitans, but the terms came more and more to be defined with respect to the city and its inhabitants rather than to individuals (Kofman 2005). Indeed, the great cosmopolitan cities were often colonial trading outposts—Shanghai, Tangiers—where peripheral and imperial peoples settled. The resulting multiple identifications that such metropolitan centres tended to nurture did not fit easily with the national project towards uniformity and single identities. This is equally true of the Soviet Union. Although the antithesis to the Western democracies, the expression cosmopolitan was a pejorative term to equate the critical intellectual with bourgeois culture and Western decadence.

The cosmopolitan city is a product of forces that the national state does not control and which it is unable to homogenize. Intellectuals, artists, political refugees and déclassé individuals of the various kinds that the late nineteenth century produced represented a cosmopolitanism that was perceived to be a threat, since these groups were separated from the elites but not directly under political or class power in the way the working class were. Cosmopolitanism thus signifies rootlessness with which goes, allegedly, a lack of loyalty to the nation. It is in the figure of the Jew that this suspicion of cosmopolitanism is most evident since with the Jew rootlessness is combined with otherness. The Jew was the cosmopolitan who as outsider embodied the vision of modernity as a relation of self and alterity (see Cheyette and Marcus 1998). Vienna was the melting pot of cosmopolitanism and nationalism. According to Ernst Gellner:

The influx of nationalities into the expanding imperial capital meant that by the end of the nineteenth century almost everyone went over to a Völkisch-national position. The only liberals, or very nearly, were those of Jewish background or with Jewish links, i.e. the cosmopolitans. They could choose, in their public persona, to be proud of their universalistic liberalism and spurn the ethnic totem poles as shameful atavisms. (Gellner 1998: 138)

Here again we have an example of cosmopolitanism as part of the dark imaginary of nationalism and without which it would not have been able to define itself. It will of course be noted that many of these cosmopolitan cities—Paris, Vienna, Berlin—were national capitals and were, especially in Central Europe, multi-ethnic. The national project, on the one hand, sought to domesticate this cosmopolitanism by giving it a universalistic form and, on the other hand, it sought to suppress cosmopolitanism. The condition of cosmopolitanism was nationalism. As with national capitals, universalistic projects such as world exhibitions and monumental architecture were intended to make the nation part of a universalistic Western civilization. In this centralizing mission cosmopolitanism was absorbed into the universalism of the national state, without its critical and ambivalent relation to fixed reference points. But the figure of otherness and rootlessness could not easily be domesticated. In terms of a wider conception of modernity, it could be suggested that nationalism and cosmopolitanism reflected different aspects of modernity: the homogenizing project of the modern state and the pluralization of modern culture and social relations. Ernest Gellner, in his final book, described this in graphic terms as a struggle between atavistic and closed nationalism and a liberal cosmopolitan nationalism open to the world. Many primordialist nationalist movements, he argued, defended their völkisch cause against ‘bloodless’ and ‘rootless cosmopolitanism’ (Gellner 1998). It is evident, then, that by the twentieth century cosmopolitanism has given way to nationalism. The polyethnicity which William McNeil believed was a feature of history prior to the arrival of the modern nation-state, disappeared and was replaced by a national citizenry (McNeil 1986).

Finally mention can be made of the other fate of twentieth-century cosmopolitanism, namely internationalism. To the extent to which the Kantian notion of a cosmopolitan order of republican states survived the first half of the twentieth century it was as an international order based on sovereign nation-states. From the ill-fated League of Nations to the United Nations and the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, an international normative order had come into existence, but one based on sovereign nation-states and which could be seen as reinforcing, not undermining, the nation-state. This was also the fate of the international socialist movement, which since the Third International, developed on national trajectories and eventually became absorbed into national political parties. There were some exceptions, notably the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War and, possibly, the case of the resistance movement to German occupation during World War II.

In one of the best-known studies of internationalism, Hedley Bull, in The Anarchical Society, detected a move in the direction of what he called ‘international society,’ with the suggestion that something like a new normative order was coming into existence (Bull 1977). An earlier indication of this was Karl Jaspers’s claim in 1945 in The Question of German Guilt that the notion of ‘crimes against humanity’ marks the birth of a new cosmopolitan order (Jaspers 1961; see also Fine 2000). At this point we can speak of the revival of cosmopolitanism.

The Revival of Cosmopolitanism

It is possible to speak of a revival of cosmopolitanism, which has been the subject of a wide range of recent publications (see Breckenridge et al. 2002; Fine 2003b; Vertovec and Cohen 2002). The details of this burgeoning field will not be examined here, rather the discussion will be confined to one issue, namely the relation of cosmopolitanism to the nation. On this question, roughly speaking, three positions can be identified. First, the universalistic position taken variously by Habermas, Held and Nussbaum, who argue for the inherent superiority of cosmopolitanism as a condition fundamentally different from nationalism. Second, the liberal argument represented by Kymlicka that cosmopolitan trends can be articulated by a liberal conception of the nation. Third, the postcolonial notion associated with Bhabha that the national and transnational are mutually implicated in hybrid identities.

The universalistic argument takes different forms, ranging from moral cosmopolitanism to cosmopolitan democratic governance. A leading representative of moral cosmopolitanism is Martha Nussbaum, for whom, in a widely cited and discussed essay, patriotism is fundamentally wrong and cannot be a basis of the good society (Nussbaum in Cohen 1996). The nation-state, she argues, is unable to solve the problems facing it, especially those related to environment, food supply and population control. In place of patriotism, she argues, cosmopolitanism, as loyalty to the world community, is a real condition and has epistemological and cognitive dimensions. For instance, self-knowledge comes only through knowledge and identification with others and, moreover, it is a fact of our time that democracy cannot be constrained by territory. Nussbaum is uncompromising in her rejection of nationalism, which, in her view, allows no room for cosmopolitanism. What this position appears to exclude is the possibility of multiple forms of identification and also excludes what is surely an important feature of cosmopolitanism, the pluralism of co-existing forms of life and overlapping identities. Nussbaum would presumably argue that patriotism by definition is antithetical to such cosmopolitanism, based as it is on a unitary and exclusivist conception of belonging. While establishing convincing arguments in favour of cosmopolitanism, this stance on the whole results in a dualism of nationalism and cosmopolitanism.

In a related position, David Held and others have advocated a stronger political and legal theory of cosmopolitanism, which goes beyond Nussbaum’s essentially moral conception of cosmopolitanism and which has strong Kantian origins (Held 1995). This version of cosmopolitanism is based on a theory of global governance which is conceived in opposition to national forms of democracy. The thesis is that the nation-state is unable to realize democracy because it is both too big and too small to solve what are global problems. As a result, and briefly put, the nation-state is unable to realize democracy in terms of three principles: individual autonomy, political legitimacy and democratic law. Although Held does not entirely reject the nation-state, which he acknowledges will not disappear as some of the more extreme positions suggest and may even have a place in a wider cosmopolitan order, he sees it in highly normative terms as not the primary site of democracy. At best the nation-state will co-exist with cosmopolitan forms of governance, as represented by international non-governmental actors and transnational organizations such as the United Nations. The difficulty with this argument is that it makes too strong a claim for cosmopolitanism and neglects that some of the most important political achievements have in fact been made by nation-states, such as social justice and local forms of democracy (see Brennan 1997; Zolo 1997). In addition, there is the problem of the cultural foundations of what, in effect, is a world polity. It is difficult to see how these problems can be resolved without taking into account cosmopolitan developments on the level of the national community.

Habermas’s version of cosmopolitanism can be seen as one located midway between the moral universalism of Nussbaum and the political universalism of Held. The limited universalism of modern societies, which have created a democratic constitutional political culture based on reasoned argumentation, is tendentially cosmopolitan in that the cultural and political horizons of the political community cannot be contained by the nation-state. In terms of a theory of cosmopolitanism Habermas makes two major claims (Habermas 1996, 1998). The first is that political communication, like all human communication, is based on universalistic norms and structures which are the normative and cognitive basis of political legitimation in democratic societies. What is universalizable, then, is not a specific political or cultural value or belief specific to a particular society, but the discursive form of communication itself, as in the contestability of justifications and rules for inclusion in the discursive space of communication. Second is the argument that the communicative space has progressively expanded in modern societies in both formal and informal spheres. In his earlier work Habermas emphasized the role of radical social movements in expanding the discursive space of modern societies in which public debate became the focal point for democracy. Although the nation-state was the main container of universalizable political communication, this has now expanded beyond the nation-state.

Most of Habermas’s reflections on the cosmopolitan political order refer to the European Union, which he sees as the main embodiment of the universalistic project of modernity (Habermas 2001,2003). The European Union is the main chance for Europe to overcome the divisions of its history to create a genuinely democratic order. The central feature of this cosmopolitan European democracy is a ‘constitutional patriotism,’ that is an identification with the principles of the constitution rather than with a particular set of national characteristics or culturally defined values. Habermas’s writings have been much discussed and it will suffice to mention here one problem. Habermas’s entire conception of cosmopolitanism demonstrates the limits of traditional kinds of nationalism, but presupposes the idea of the nation-state. This is because his idea of Europe is based on the constitutional form of national democracy bolstered by social rights and a framework of citizenship based on a common definition of peoplehood. Even if this self-understanding is largely civic in kind, and Habermas argues it must necessarily be so, the question remains how this can be transferred to a transnational order. There are complex issues at stake here but the point of the present analysis is simply to demonstrate the futility of disconnecting cosmopolitanism from the national level. It is not surprising therefore that Habermas’s very theory appears to presuppose the constitutional and normative framework of the nation-state. The following two positions can be seen as a modification of the implicit dualism in the universalistic position.

The second approach to cosmopolitanism differs from the universalistic ones discussed in the foregoing in that they are based on a liberal conception of the nation. The best-known liberal theorist of nationalism is Will Kymlicka, who takes as his point of departure group rights and multicultural politics (Kymlicka 1995; Kymlicka and Straehle 1999). His question can be posed as this: what are the conditions under which a political community must recognize the rights of minorities, including the demands of minority nationalism? His main argument is that minority claims need not be seen as a threat to nation-states and the satisfaction of such demands is often essential to the survival and stability of democratic polities. Although this kind of liberal nationalism is not necessarily opposed to cosmopolitan governance as in Held (Kymlicka recognizes the role of transnational democracy) or Habermas’s constitutional republicanism (to which it is closer), it is a version of cosmopolitanism that does not set up a basic tension with the category of the nation. The disadvantage with this approach, however, is that it tends to reduce cosmopolitanism to relatively specific issues, such as the claims to autonomy or special rights particular groups may have. Indeed, Kymlicka is quite explicit on the limits to cosmopolitan claims, which is why his approach is simply a modification of standard liberalism. Habermas excludes most cultural problems from the sphere of cosmopolitanism, leading Thomas McCarthy to argue for the reconciliation of national and cosmopolitan perspectives in terms of a concern with cultural issues (McCarthy 2001).

The postcolonial notion of the nation as put forward by Homi Bhabha is one of the most relevant examples of a cosmopolitan conception of the nation. According to Bhabha, nations are not unified or homogeneous but contain within their imaginaries alterity (Bhabha 1990). The nation is formed in a narrative of transgression and negotiation with otherness; it is, as a result, a fundamentally hybrid category. By means of the concept of narration, Bhabha aims to capture the negotiation of identity in a continuous movement. Nations are built upon narratives which are incomplete and perspectival; they are stories that people tell about their collective existence and in which the past is constantly redefined. This is more true today than in the past when marginal groups of people are coming to play a greater role in defining national identity: women, immigrants, colonial peoples are less ‘outside’ the nation than within it. Related to this is a shift in the narrative construction of the nation from the centre to the peripheries and from a male worldview to a female one. The result of this shift to the margin is more and more different narratives of nationhood. As a hybrid and multivocal category the nation is thus already cosmopolitan (see also Cheah and Robbins 1998). In other approaches the emphasis is on mobility. For instance, Ong sees a new cosmopolitanism in transnational migration and diasporic movements (Ong 1997; see also Hannerz 1996). The kind of cosmopolitanism that is referred to here is different from the Enlightenment’s model of cosmopolitanism, which was often Eurocentric and individualistic, based as it was on a notion of the citizen of the world; it is rather one that is represented by movements from the periphery and whose carriers are diasporic nations. In this view cosmopolitanism is itself a new kind of patriotism, a ‘rooted cosmopolitanism’ (Appiah 1998, 2004).

The postcolonial notion of the nation as containing within itself a relation to cosmopolitanism has the obvious merit of avoiding some of the dualistic assumptions of the universalistic position and offers a broader vision of the nation than in liberal nationalism. The main objection to it is that cosmopolitanism is too easily reduced to the condition of hybridity, on the one hand, and on the other to a postcolonial conception of the nation, which becomes difficult to apply to nations not essentially formed out of colonialism. Yet, important gains have been made in overcoming the tendential dualism in the Enlightenment-influenced models of cosmopolitanism.

Although not advocating a postcolonial position as such, Ulrich Beck has outlined the foundations of a more comprehensive cosmopolitan social theory which echoes similar ideas (Beck 2000,2002,2006; Beck and Grande 2006). He is more critical of the notion of hybridity, stressing instead the recognition of difference as opposed to the simple fact of cultural mixing. In addition, cosmopolitanism requires the adoption of an approach that replaces national-national relation with national-global and global-global relations. Cosmopolitan refers to the end of the ‘closed society’ of the nation-state but it does not spell the end of nation. Beck thus speaks of a ‘rooted cosmopolitanism’ to refer to what is a really existing cosmopolitanism in the world today and which corresponds to multiple attachments and forms of belonging that are reflexively constituted. Just as there is a ‘banal nationalism,’ so too there is a ‘banal cosmopolitanism,’ as in the multiculturalism of many societies and in forms of consumption.


The conclusion we can draw from this chapter is that the category of the nation does not exist in a pure form any longer and, moreover, a critical examination of the nation in history will reveal that it was not fundamentally in tension with cosmopolitanism. Moreover, cosmopolitanism does not exist as a supranationalism, beyond and above the nation. Cosmopolitanism can itself lead to new expressions of national identity, as Aihwa Ong and Yasamin Soysal argue. Nationalism and cosmopolitanism are mutually implicated. Cosmopolitanism is no longer an individualistic disposition but has been incorporated into the cultural horizon of modernity and into the imaginaries of many nations. It is thus possible to see the nation as a vehicle for cosmopolitanism which is not disembodied and rootless. As a politically oriented movement, it is also a form of resistance against both globalization and the new nationalists, who, like the new global elites, also transnationally mobilized. As argued by Mary Kaldor, a genuinely democratic cosmopolitanism must give voice to the grievances of the great many people excluded from the benefits of globalization (Kaldor 1996). This ‘cosmopolitanism from below’ can be related to forms of solidarity that go beyond traditional nationalism and which are also different from transnational and supranational networks. It may be suggested in conclusion that cosmopolitanism refers to a notion of peoplehood as defined by neither nation nor state but by the encounter with difference, both difference within the self and beyond the self.