In order to unpack cosmopolitanism, we need to make another important distinction, namely that between normative-philosophical and empirical-analytical cosmopolitanism; or, to put it differently, between the cosmopolitan condition and the cosmopolitan moment. Up to now, much of the social scientific discourse has assumed the notion of cosmopolitanism as a moral and political standpoint, a shared normative–philosophical commitment to the primacy of world citizenship over all national, religious, cultural, ethnic and other parochial affiliations; added to this is the notion of cosmopolitanism as an attitude or biographical situation in which the cultural contradictions of the world are unequally distributed, not just out there but also at the centre of one's own life. A world of yesterday turned into an utopian future and reclaimed by social thinkers is elevating ‘homelessness’, ‘fluidity’, ‘liquidity’, ‘mobility’ to new heights. ‘Cosmopolitanism’ has a noble ring in a plebeian age, the nobility of a Kant in a postmodern age. This is the kind of cosmopolitanism familiar to philosophers since ancient times, but alien to social scientists. Here, cosmopolitanism is equated with reflexive cosmopolitanism. This idea of cosmopolitanism includes the idea that the self-reflexive global age offers space in which old cosmopolitan ideals could and should be translated and re-configured into concrete social realities and philosophy turned into sociology. Nevertheless, the question has to be asked and answered: Why is there a cosmopolitan moment now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century?
On the other hand the discourse on cosmopolitanism so far has not really paid attention to the fact that, besides the intended, there is an unintended and lived cosmopolitanism and this is of growing importance: the increase in interdependence among social actors across national borders (which can only be observed from the cosmopolitan outlook), whereby the peculiarity exists in the fact that this ‘cosmopolitanization’ occurs as unintended and unseen side-effects of actions which are not intended as ‘cosmopolitan’ in the normative sense. Only under certain circumstances does this latent cosmopolitanization lead to the emergence of global public spheres, global discussion forums, and global regimes concerned with transnational conflicts (‘institutionalized cosmopolitanism’). Summarizing these aspects, we speak of the Cosmopolitan Condition as opposed to the Post-modern Condition.
The cosmopolitan condition
If we make a clear distinction between the actor perspective and the observer perspective, both in relation to the national outlook and the cosmopolitan outlook, we end up with four fields in a table representing the possible changes in perspectives and reality. It is at least conceivable (and this needs a lot of optimism!) that the shift in outlook from methodological nationalism to methodological cosmopolitanism will gain acceptance. But this need not have any implications for the prospect for realizing cosmopolitan ideals in society and politics. So, if one is an optimist regarding a cosmopolitan turn in the social sciences, one can certainly also be a pessimist regarding a cosmopolitan turn in the real world. It would be ridiculously naïve to think that a change in scientific paradigm might lead to a situation where people, organizations and governments are becoming more open to the ideals of cosmopolitanism. But again: if this is so why do we need a cosmopolitan outlook for the social sciences? Our answer is: in order to understand the really-existing process of cosmopolitanization of the world.
Like the distinction between ‘modernity’ and ‘modernization’, we have to distinguish between cosmopolitanism as a set of normative principles and (really existing) cosmopolitanization. This distinction turns on the rejection of the claim that cosmopolitanism is a conscious and voluntary choice, and all too often the choice of an elite. The notion ‘cosmopolitanization’ is designed to draw attention to the fact that the emerging cosmopolitan of reality is also, and even primarily, a function of coerced choices or a side-effect of unconscious decisions. The choice to become or remain an ‘alien’ or a ‘non-national’ is not as a general rule a voluntary one but a response to acute need, political repression or a threat of starvation. A ‘banal’ cosmopolitanism in this sense unfolds beneath the surface or behind the façades of persisting national spaces, jurisdiction and labelling, while national flags continue to be hoisted and national attitudes, identities and consciousness remain dominant. Judged by the lofty standards of ethical and academic morality, this latent character renders cosmopolitanism trivial, unworthy of comment, even suspect. An ideal that formerly strutted the stage of world history as an ornament of the elite cannot possibly slink into social and political reality by the backdoor. Thus, we emphasize the centrality of emotional engagement and social integration and not only fragmentation as part of the cosmopolitan world. And this emphasizes that the process of cosmopolitanization is bound up with symbol and ritual, and not just with spoken ideas. And it is symbol and ritual that turns philosophy into personal and social identity and consequently relevant for social analysis. The more such rituals contribute to individuals' personal sense of conviction, the larger the critical mass available to be mobilized in cosmopolitan reform movements for instance, be they movements against global inequality or human rights violations (see the contributions by Robert Fine (2006: 49–67) and Angela McRobbie (2006: 69–86)). And the farther cosmopolitan rituals and symbols spread, the more chance there will be of someday achieving a cosmopolitan political order. This is where normative and empirical cosmopolitanism meet. At the same time, we must remember that a cosmopolitan morality is not the only historically important form of today's globalized world. Another one is nationalism. The nation-state was originally formed out of local units to which people were fiercely attached. They considered these local attachments ‘natural’ and the nation-state to be soulless and artificial –Gesellschaft compared to the local Gemeinschaft. But thanks to national rituals and symbols, that eventually changed completely. Now today many people consider national identity to be natural and cosmopolitan or world identity to be an artificial construct. They are right. It will be an artificial construct, if artificial means made by humans. But they are wrong if they think artificial origins prevent something from eventually being regarded as natural. It did not stop the nation-state. And there is no reason it has to stop cosmopolitan morality. However, the challenge will be to see these moral orders not as contradictory but as living side by side in the global world. Cosmopolitanism and nationalism are not mutually exclusive, neither methodologically nor normatively.
There can be no doubt that a cosmopolitanism that is passively and unwillingly suffered is a deformed cosmopolitanism. The fact that really-existing cosmopolitanization is not achieved through struggle, that it is not chosen, that it does not come into the world as progress with the reflected moral authority of the Enlightenment, but as something deformed and profane, cloaked in the anonymity of side-effects – this is an essential founding moment within cosmopolitan realism in the social sciences. Our main point is here to make a distinction between the moral ideal of cosmopolitanism (as expressed in Enlightenment philosophy) and the above mentioned cosmopolitan condition of real people. It's also the distinction between theory and praxis. This means, in our case, the distinction between a cosmopolitan philosophy and a cosmopolitan sociology.
If we ask who are the intellectual progenitors of this internal cosmopolitanization of national societies, Adam Smith, Alexis de Tocqueville and John Dewy come to mind, as well as such classical German thinkers as Kant, Goethe, Herder, Humboldt, Nietzsche, Marx and Simmel. All of them construed the modern period as a transition from early conditions of relatively closed societies to ‘universal eras’ (universelle Epochen, Goethe) of interdependent societies, a transition that essentially involved the expansion of commerce and the dissemination of the principle of republicanism.
For Kant, even more so for Marx, and in different ways also for Adam Smith and Georg Simmel, the dissolution of small territorial communities and the spread of universal social and economic interdependence (through the not yet associated risks) was the essential mark, and even the law, of world history. Their preoccupation with long lines of historical development made them sceptical towards the idea that state and society in their nationally homogenous manifestations could constitute the end point of world history. Cosmopolitanization thus includes the proliferation of multiple cultures (as with cuisines from around the world), the growth of many transnational forms of life, the emergence of various non-state political actors (from Amnesty International to the World Trade Organization), the paradoxical emergence of global protest movements, the hesitant formation of multi-national states (like the European Union) etc. There is simply no way of turning the clock back to a world of sovereign nation-states and national societies. Therefore we need a cosmopolitan sociology – even to understand why anticosmopolitan movements actually influence, and in the future maybe even dominate, the world.
The cosmopolitan moment
While reality is becoming thoroughly cosmopolitan, our habits of thought and consciousness, like the well-worn paths of academic teaching and research, disguise the growing unreality of the national gaze (and methodological nationalism). A critique of the unreal science of the national, which presents itself in universalistic garb but can neither deny nor shake off its historically internalized national gaze, presupposes the cosmopolitan outlook and its methodological elaboration. But what is the difference between (latent) cosmopolitanization and the cosmopolitan outlook?
That is a difficult question which has to be approached from different angles. One answer is: the (forced) mixing of cultures is not anything new in world history but, on the contrary, the rule; one need only think of wars of plunder and conquest, mass migrations, the slave trade and colonization, world wars, ethnic cleansing and forced repatriation and expulsion. From the very beginning, the emerging global market required the mixing of peoples and imposed it by force, if necessary, as the opening up of Japan and China in the nineteenth century demonstrate. Capital tears down all national boundaries and jumbles together the ‘native’ with the ‘foreign’. What is new is not forced mixing but global awareness of it, its self-conscious political affirmation, its reflection and recognition before a global public via the mass media, in the news and in the global social movements of blacks, women and minorities, and in the current vogue for such venerable concepts as ‘Diaspora’ in the cultural sciences. It is this, at once social and social scientific, reflexivity that makes the ‘cosmopolitan outlook’ one of the key concepts and topics of the reflexive second modernity.
Therefore, the question ‘Is there a Cosmopolitan Moment Now?’ has to be translated into a research agenda by asking: under what conditions, subject to what limits and by which actors are cosmopolitan principles nevertheless being translated into practice and thereby acquiring enduring reality – and which principles and against what forms of resistance? What are the characteristics, and who or what is the ‘subject’, of the cosmopolitan moment at the beginning of the third millennium?
This question can be posed and answered paradigmatically and paradoxically within the theory of World Risk Society (Beck 1999). The nation-state is increasingly besieged and permeated by a planetary network of interdependencies, for example, by ecological, economic and terrorist risks, which connect the separate worlds of developed and underdeveloped countries. To the extent that this historical situation is reflected in a global public sphere (last example: the Tsunami-catastrophe), a new historical reality arises, a ‘cosmopolitan outlook’ in which people view themselves simultaneously as part of a threatened world and as part of their local situations and histories.
We need to distinguish between at least four different axes of conflict in world risk society: first, ecological (and technological) interdependency crises, which have their own global dynamic; second, economic interdependency crises, which are initially individualized and nationalized; third, the threat produced by terrorist interdependency crises; and fourth, moral interdependency crisis, which springs from the spread of the human rights regime.
Despite their differences, however, ecological, economic, moral and terrorist interdependency crises share one essential feature: they cannot be construed as external environmental crises but must be conceived as culturally manufactured actions, effects, insecurities and uncertainties. In this sense, global risks can sharpen global normative consciousness, generate global publics and promote a cosmopolitan outlook. In world risk society – this is the central point of the research agenda – the question concerning the causes and agencies of global threats sparks new political conflicts, which in turn promote an ‘institutionalized cosmopolitanism’ in struggles over definitions and jurisdictions. Another side of ‘institutionalized cosmopolitanism’ is represented by individualism or internalized cosmopolitanism. Issues of global concern are becoming part of people's moral life-worlds, no matter whether they are for or against cosmopolitanism. The cosmopolitan horizon becomes institutionalized in our own subjective lives. A cosmopolitan sociology, therefore, brings the subject back into the social sciences after systems theory and poststructuralist theories have tried to construct a social science without subjects.
Cultural risk perceptions and definitions at the same time draw new boundaries. Those groups, countries, cultures and states which share the same definition of a threat may be said to ‘belong to it’; they form the ‘inside’ of a ‘transnational risk community’, which develops its profile and institutional structure (national and international players and institutions) in an ultimately preventive defence against certain causes and sources of danger. Those who, for whatever reason, do not share this definition of a threat constitute the ‘outside’ of the risk community and – even if they wish to remain ‘neutral’– can easily become part of the threat against which the fight is being waged. In this way, conflicts take shape under the aegis of risk perception between regions that enter the terrain of world risk society with very different historical situations, experiences and expectations.
The politics of human rights provides empirical evidence for this claim. If human rights come to be understood as the necessary basis of an increasing number of individuals' autonomy, these people will ‘feel’ that they are defending the foundations of their own identities when they defend the importance of human rights for foreigners and strangers. The cultural and political diversity that is essential to this kind of life has been slowly elevated to a central political principle. It sometimes seems as if it were even more highly valued than the representative principle with which it now shares pride of place. The interesting thing about an individualistic culture is that it could conceivably embrace a concept like cosmopolitan justice in the same paradoxical way that it is able to embrace the politics of ecology. Ecology in many ways embodies a conservative perspective. It takes the values of local community, the idea of communal responsibility, and magnifies it to the level of civil society. In effect, it treats civil society as a great community, one which should have control over its environment. It treats society as something that can be regarded for these purposes as a single community, despite the fact that it consists of very different subgroups and classes.
This demonstrates that the everyday experience of cosmopolitan interdependence is not a mutual love affair. It arises in a climate of heightened global threats, which create an unavoidable pressure to co-operate. With the conceptualization and recognition of threats on a cosmopolitan scale, a shared space of responsibility and agency bridging all national frontiers and divides is created that can (though it need not) found political action among strangers in ways analogous to national politics. This is the case when recognition of the scale of the common threats leads to cosmopolitan norms and agreements and thus to an institutionalized cosmopolitanism.
However, existing research on the emergence of corresponding supra- and transnational organizations and regimes has shown how difficult it is to make the transition from agreement on the definition of the threats to agreement on what form the required response should take. Ongoing communication concerning threats is an important component of informal cosmopolitan norm-formation. The socializing effect of world risk society is not adequately grasped if we restrict its potential to new and yet-to-be founded institutions of successful global co-ordination. Already prior to any cosmopolitan institution-formation, global norms are produced by outrage over circumstances that are felt to be intolerable. The emergence of global norms is not necessarily contingent on the conscious efforts of ‘positive’ norm formation but can be fuelled ‘negatively’ by the evaluation of global crises and threats to humanity.
The concept of cosmopolitan memory is a good example in this connection. It is not global in any homogeneous sense. It rather represents a mixture of the local and national with the global, which in turn never was truly global but sprang from very specific historical occurrences. This ‘cosmopolitanization’ of memory can potentially create new solidarities and support global-political and global-cultural norms for the effective spread of human rights: cosmopolitanized memory as practical enlightenment, as it were. Through the media and other means of communication, people are drawn into cycles of cosmopolitan sympathies, at times even against their own will (Levy and Sznaider 2005).
Thus analytical-empirical cosmopolitanism simultaneously delimits itself from normative-political cosmopolitanism and presupposes it. This distinction does not only promote a ‘value-free’ approach to everyday experience and to the epistemology of world risk society in the social sciences; it compels us to demarcate, though not to neglect, normative and political cosmopolitanism in a world that has become a danger to itself. In fact, this distinction first makes it possible to pose the question of the relation between the categories and cognitions of the cosmopolitan outlook (or the critique of methodological nationalism), on the one hand, and the topics of cosmopolitan ethics and politics, on the other. How are cosmopolitan democracy, justice, solidarity, community, identity, law, politics, state, etc. possible? What does a cosmopolitan redefinition of religion mean?