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Kantian Cosmopolitanism today

‘Kantian Cosmopolitanism today: John Rawls and Jurgen Habermas on Immanuel Kant’s Foedus Pacificum’

Will Smith and Robert Fine


King’s College Law Journal

15, 1, 2004, pp. 5-22.



Contemporary legal and political philosophy has witnessed the emergence of a new cosmopolitan paradigm, characterised by its determination to defend the relevance and radicalism of Kant’s vision of ‘Perpetual Peace’. The protagonists of this paradigm seek to ameliorate the internal tensions in Kant’s cosmopolitan ideal and to revise those features that make it unrealistic in contemporary political conditions. This paper revisits Kant’s original cosmopolitan vision before surveying two prominent reconstructions of it: John Rawls’ ‘law of peoples’ and Jürgen Habermas’ ‘postnational constellation’. Our paper offers a provisional assessment of the contemporary state of Kantian cosmopolitanism, through ascertaining how successful Rawls and Habermas are at adapting it to the conditions of the modern world.