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Keywords:

  • Classical sociology;
  • citizenship;
  • cosmopolitanism;
  • globalization;
  • recognition ethics

Abstract

It is frequently argued that classical sociology, if not sociology as a whole, cannot provide any significant insight into globalization, primarily because its assumptions about the nation-state, national cultures and national societies are no longer relevant to a global world. Sociology cannot consequently contribute to a normative debate about cosmopolitanism, which invites us to consider loyalties and identities that reach beyond the nation-state.

My argument considers four principal topics. First, I defend the classical legacy by arguing that classical sociology involved the study of ‘the social’ not national societies. This argument is illustration by reference to Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons. Secondly, Durkheim specifically developed the notion of a cosmopolitan sociology to challenge the nationalist assumptions of his day. Thirdly, I attempt to develop a critical version of Max Weber's verstehende soziologie to consider the conditions for critical recognition theory in sociology as a necessary precondition of cosmopolitanism. Finally, I consider the limitations of some contemporary versions of global sociology in the example of ‘flexible citizenship’ to provide an empirical case study of the limitations of globalization processes and ‘sociology beyond society’. While many institutions have become global, some cannot make this transition. Hence, we should consider the limitations on as well as the opportunities for cosmopolitan sociology.