Liberal political theorists, the cosmopolitan tradition and globalisation discourse

My article for the journal In-Spire: Journal of Law, Politics and Societies on the influence of globalisation on the cosmopolitan tradition within liberal ideology.

The label ‘cosmopolitanism’ has become increasingly popular in Anglo-American liberal political theory, arousing claims of a resurgent Kantian perspective. Cosmopolitanism and liberalism are related but distinct traditions, conjoined only in the 18th Century by Immanuel Kant, who insisted that liberal ideals be conceived as applicable to a single human community and as such articulated a ‘liberal cosmopolitanism’ perspective. Contemporary liberals appear to share the same orientation, yet it is argued here that the presence of a liberal discourse of globalisation in the work of many contemporary cosmopolitans must not be under-appreciated. Globalisation as a concept implies the existence of a single global socio-economic system, and is treated by contemporary theorists as a prerequisite of cosmopolitanism – yet Kant’s work did not rely on such empirical assessments. While rejecting the argument upheld by some commentators that an acceptance of the reality and importance of globalisation as a context for action prevents today’s theorists from adhering sincerely to cosmopolitan ideals, it is nevertheless argued that the status of Kant’s legacy in the liberal cosmopolitan tradition has been transformed. As such, it may be safer to refer to theorists such as David Held and Charles Beitz as ‘cosmopolitan liberals’, rather than ‘liberal cosmopolitans’.

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Image: Michael Galkovsky