Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Cosmopolitanism as Hospitality: Revisiting Identity and Difference in Cosmopolitanism

Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Cosmopolitanism as Hospitality: Revisiting Identity and Difference in Cosmopolitanism

Article excerpt

For many cosmopolitans, an emergent global civil society is re framing the relationship between the universal and particular in world politics in ways that do justice to both. This article disputes his claim, finding that the concept of global civil society shares the same fundamental problem as state sovereignty, namely that it is better at articulating global identity than difference because it reproduces in different form statist attempts to describe a universal structure of particularity. It then argues that to avoid reducing difference to identity while remaining true to the cosmopolitan impulse to ethical universality, that is, to recognition of moral obligations to foreigners, it is necessary to take cosmopolitanism as synonymous with an ethics of hospitality enabling a nondialectical account of identity and difference in cosmopolitanism. As Derrida affirms, hospitality deconstructs the binary of identity and difference in our ethical relations with strangers. This dialectic- defying quality of cosmopolitanism-as-hospitality requires a greater decisionism than dialectical liberal-cosmopolitanism, turning cosmopolitanism away from the pure ethics of its liberal variants and transforming it into an ethicopolitics. KEYWORDS: cosmopolitanism; hospitality; identity; difference; Derrida

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The debate between liberal cosmopolitans and their critics rebounds monotonously between the rock of universalism--imperialistic projections of identity--and the hard place of particularity--essentializing projections of difference and otherness. The call to transcend international plurality in the name of putative universals such as individual right is accused of giving carte blanche to the so-called neoimperialism of the liberal interventionists. Yet, conversely, every attempt to leave the world as it is seems justifiable only by twisting the fact of pluralism into a universal value. (1) Universalisms persistently struggle with the accusation that they are merely a Trojan horse for a particular (but would-be hegemonic) way of life--universalists are forced to admit that they always carry with them "a clump of their native soil." (2) Yet the valorization of difference is also constantly under attack for risking a descent into irresponsible relativism--in Habermas's terms, for fundamentally failing to provide an answer to the question "Why fight?" against injustice while at the same time exhibiting the performative contradiction of granting universal normative status to difference. (3)

This universality-particularity or identity-difference debate endlessly repeats its now depressingly familiar moves, with even attempts at accommodation between the two poles reproducing the underlying dialectical approach in the sense of ultimately seeking a synthesis between them. Thus the international society or English School perspective, for example, despite promising a via media of universal and particular in the form of a global agreement to disagree, continues with an either-or sense of the opposition between these poles as we can see from Hedley Bull's reluctant conclusion, in The Anarchical Society, that international order, premised on difference, must in the final analysis trump international-order-wrecking "world justice." (4)

Yet offering to break this deadlock, or so it appears to many cosmopolitans, is an emergent global civil society that is refraining the relationship between the universal and particular in ways conducive to cosmopolitan political community. This reframing of identity and difference within the theory and practice of global civil society is seen by many cosmopolitans as at last doing justice to both universality and particularity in world politics. Global civil society is held to be at once more genuinely universal than the society of states and yet also more authentically particularistic; more universal in the sense of displacing territorially bounded, national forms of belonging with deterritorialized, transnational identities; more particularistic in the sense of replacing the universal structure of difference characteristic of state sovereignty with a more genuinely pluralistic expression of global diversity (ranging from new social movements to indigenous rebellions and everything in between). …

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