New Book: Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom

David Harvey has a new book out, I haven’t read it yet, but it looks very promising:

CUP blurb:

Liberty and freedom are frequently invoked to justify political action. Presidents as diverse as Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush have built their policies on some version of these noble values. Yet in practice, idealist agendas often turn sour as they confront specific circumstances on the ground. Demonstrated by incidents at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, the pursuit of liberty and freedom can lead to violence and repression, undermining our trust in universal theories of liberalism, neoliberalism, and cosmopolitanism.

Combining his passions for politics and geography, David Harvey charts a cosmopolitan order more appropriate to an emancipatory form of global governance. Political agendas tend to fail, he argues, because they ignore the complexities of geography. Incorporating geographical knowledge into the formation of social and political policy is therefore a necessary condition for genuine democracy. 

Harvey begins with an insightful critique of the political uses of freedom and liberty, especially during the George W. Bush administration. Then, through an ontological investigation into geography’s foundational concepts—space, place, and environment—he radically reframes geographical knowledge as a basis for social theory and political action. As Harvey makes clear, the cosmopolitanism that emerges is rooted in human experience rather than illusory ideals and brings us closer to achieving the liberation we seek.

David Harvey on Democracy now: Continue reading

Cosmopolitanism and Democracy (Benhabib)

Latest Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik (6/2009) is dedicated to Habermas. Seyla Benhabib has an interesting essay (.PDF) on cosmpolitanism and democracy in it.

Der 80. Geburtstag von Jürgen Habermas bedeutet auch für mich persönlich ein kleines Habermas-Jubiläum. Es ist nämlich genau 30 Jahre her, dass ich als Stipendiatin der Alexander-von-Humboldt-Stiftung im Herbst 1979 nach Deutschland kam, um bei ihm am Max-Planck-Institut in Starnberg zu studieren.

Von Anfang an nahm ich Jürgen Habermas wahr als die relevante zeitgenössische Figur in der Tradition des Kosmopolitismus. „Kosmopolitismus“ bedeutet für mich anzuerkennen, dass Menschen moralische Personen sind, die ein Recht auf den Schutz durch das Gesetz haben, und zwar aufgrund der Rechte, die ihnen nicht als Staatsbürger oder als Mitglieder einer ethnischen Gruppe zukommen, sondern die sie einfach als Menschen beanspruchen können. Des Weiteren bedeutet Kosmopolitismus, dass Ländergrenzen im 21. Jahrhundert zunehmend durchlässig und dass Gerechtigkeit innerhalb der Grenzen und Gerechtigkeit jenseits der Grenzen miteinander verbunden sind, selbst wenn es zwischen ihnen zu Spannungen kommen kann und kommt. Aus dieser menschenrechtlich-kosmopolitischen Position resultiert bei Jürgen Habermas von Anfang an der Wille zur „Einbeziehung des Anderen“, unabhängig von seiner nationalen Herkunft.

Read the rest here.

Normativity (in sensu cosmico)

Reading a bit of Jäsche Logik this afternoon, came across some observations on the nature of philosophy. Since the status of this text is different from even your usual student lectures, it’s hard to cite it as belonging to Kant himself, although it is clearly in the spirit of what Kant writes elsewhere on the matter (see below):

Philosophy is thus the system of philosophical cognitions or of cognitions of reason from concepts. That is the scholastic concept [Schulbegriff] of this science. According to the worldly concept [Weltbegriff] it is the science of the final ends of human reason. This high concept gives philosophy dignity, i.e., an absolute worth.


In this scholastic sense of the word, philosophy has to do only with skill [Geschicklichkeit], but in the relation to the worldly concept, on the other hand, with usefulness [Nützlichkeit]. The the former respect it is thus a doctrine of skill; in the latter, a doctrine of wisdom, the legislator of reason, and the philosopher to this extent not an artist of reason but rather a legislator. 

The artist of reason… strives only for speculative knowledge, without looking to see how much the knowledge contributes to the final end of human reason; he gives rules for the use of reason for any sort of end one wishes. The practical philosopher, the teacher of wisdom through doctrine and example, is the real philosopher [der eigentliche Philosoph]. For philosophy is the idea of a perfect wisdom, which shows us the final ends of human reason. [9:24] (English translation from Cambridge edition, 537) Continue reading

Craig Calhoun on Cosmopolitanism

Over at the Immanent Frame and Societas: The Blog, Craig Calhoun has a series of posts on the issue of cosmopolitanism:

Cosmopolitanism and the Ideal of Postsecular Public Reason.

The notion of religion as somehow private has informed the modern era in a host of ways. Most are misleading but also constitutive of social practices and understandings.

It is not that religion simply was in every sense private. On the contrary, from the Social Gospel to Vatican II and Liberation Theology, as well as in more conservative forms it was recurrently part of both national and international public life. The distinction is not that of personal piety from more outward forms of religious practice, though this has been a significant distinction. Indeed, established churches have suffered some of the greatest declines in religious adherence. Religion has flourished most where it has felt like a personal commitment, but this has not meant that it had no public implications. The rest is here.

Cosmopolitanism in the Modern Social Imaginary (Part 1 of 3).

One day in the early 1980s, I was riding in the backseat of an old Land Rover through the desert southwest of Khartoum. There was no road but the landscape, mostly flat, was marked by the occasional saint’s tomb distinctive to Sudanese Islam. My companions and I hadn’t seen another vehicle for a couple of hours when one appeared as a tiny dot on the horizon. It was headed our way and as is typical both cars slowed down to see who else might be passing through the seemingly empty desert. My curiosity was mild – I had been in the Sudan only a month or two and didn’t think I’d know anyone – until I realized that in fact I did know the face looking back at me through the window of the other Land Rover. It was my friend Vaughan, an Oxford classmate from years earlier. We both shouted and our cars stopped. The rest is here.