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Week 10 - Cosmopolitanism

Leticia Villamediana González

Please note that this session will not take place at the usual time due to a timetable clash. Instead, we shall meet on Week 10, Tuesday 2.45-4.45 in H4.50.


‘When Kant called on Enlightenment thinkers to address the “world”, the public sphere was essential to its definition’ (Calhoun, 1992: 18).

In week 10, we will focus on the Enlightenment forms of cosmopolitanism and public sphere and the relationship between both. First, we will be considering the history of the idea of cosmopolitanism, particularly its modern and contemporary forms. Cosmopolitanism has its roots in Ancient Greek thought, was resurrected by the Enlightenment and reborn again within the political sciences after WWII, and continues to make an impression on modern critical theory.

Since it was first published in 1962, and especially since it appeared in English translation in 1989, Habermas’s The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere has had a huge influence on historians’ understanding of how the gradual increase in public involvement in all aspects of society and politics came about from the late seventeenth century.

These are some of the questions we will discuss:

1. Read the excerpt from Kant's essay on cosmopolitanism and history here: How would you define cosmopolitanism in this essay?

2. Consider the position and characteristics ascribed to women in the excerpt from Kants' essay Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime. How do women relate to the cosmopolitan ideal? Download here.

3. Is Kant’s idea of cosmopolitanism still relevant to our times? What are the problems posed by the term ‘cosmopolitanism’? We will discuss Habermas’s Theory of Cosmopolitanism.

4. What do we understand by ‘public sphere’?

5. As a model, Habermas’s theory has both strengths and weaknesses regarding its applicability to the historical realities in different countries. Why?

6. What’s the relationship between cosmopolitanism and public sphere?


Texts for reading

Calhoun, Craig, ‘Introduction: Habermas and the Public Sphere’, in Calhoun, ed., Habermas and the Public Sphere (Cambridge, Mass.; London: MIT Press, 1992), pp. 1-48

Chouliaraki, Lilie, ‘Mediating Vulnerability: Cosmopolitanism and the Public Sphere’, Media, Culture & Society, 35 (2013), 105-12

Fine, Robert and Vivienne Bood, ‘Cosmopolitanism: Between Past and Future’, European Journal of Social Theory, 10 (2007), 5-16

Jacob, Margaret C., ‘The Mental Landscape of the Public Sphere: A European Perspective’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 28 (1994), 95-113

Smith, William and Robert Fine, 'Kantian Cosmopolitanism today: John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas on Immanuel Kant’s Foedus Pacificum’, King’s Law Journal, 15 (2004), 5-22

Further reading:

Bhambra, Gurminder K. and John Narayan, European cosmopolitanism: colonial histories and postcolonial societies (Abingdon, Oxon; New York, N.Y. : Routledge, 2017)

Cosmopolis and Beyond: Literary Cosmopolitanism after the Republic of Letters

Dominguez, César, ‘World Literature and Cosmopolitanism’, in The Routledge Companion to World Literature, ed. by Theo D’haen, David Damrosch and Djelal Kadir (London: Routledge, 2012), pp. 242-52

Habermas, J. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1989)

Landes, Joan B., ‘The Private and the Public Sphere: A Feminist Reconsideration’, in Feminists Read Habermas: gendering the subject of discourse, ed. by Johanna Meehan (New York; London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 91-116

Patell, Cyrus R. K., Cosmopolitanism and the literary imagination (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: 2015)

Shaw, Kristian, Cosmopolitanism in Twenty-First Century Fiction (Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2017)