User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ˌkɑzməˈpɑlɪtənɪzm̩/
  • /%kAzm@"pAlIt@nIzm/


κόσμος (cosmos) meaning world, and πολις (polis) meaning city, people, citizenry, combined with the English suffix -ism.


  1. The idea that all of humanity belongs to a single moral community.

Extensive Definition

Cosmopolitanism is the idea that all of humanity belongs to a single moral community. This is contrasted with communitarian theories, in particular the ideologies of patriotism and nationalism. Cosmopolitanism may or may not entail some sort of world government or it may simply refer to more inclusive moral, economic, and/or political relationships between nations or individuals of different nations . A person who adheres to the idea of cosmopolitanism in any of its forms is called a cosmopolite.
The word derives from Greek cosmos Κόσμος (the Universe) and polis Πόλις (city).

Cultural cosmopolitanism

Cultural cosmopolitanism pertains to wide international experience. It refers to a partiality for cultures besides one's own culture of origin, as with a traveler or globally conscious person. The term derives from Greek κόσμος (cosmos) meaning world + πολίτης (politēs) meaning citizen, and was widely used by ancient Stoic philosophers to describe a universal love of humankind as a whole, regardless of nation. The term may also be used as a synonym for 'worldly' or 'sophisticated'.

Philosophical cosmopolitanism

Philosophical roots

Cosmopolitanism can be traced back to the founding father of the Cynic movement in Ancient Greece, Diogenes of Sinope (c. 412 B.C.). Of Diogenes (who was reportedly living in a barrel) it is said: “Asked where he came from, he answered: “I am a citizen of the world (kosmopolitês)". Although today it has a snobby connotation in the sense of the well-to-do inhabitant of a large city where different cultures meet, this wasn’t what was originally intended. The Stoics, who later took Diogenes' idea and developed it into a full blown concept, typically stressed that each human being “dwells […] in two communities – the local community of our birth, and the community of human argument and aspiration”. A common way to understand Stoic cosmopolitanism is through Hierocles' circle model of identity that states that we should regard ourselves as concentric circles, the first one around the self, next immediate family, extended family, local group, citizens, countrymen, humanity. The task of world citizens becomes then to “draw the circles somehow towards the centre, making all human beings more like our fellow city dwellers, and so forth.” Kant seems to have adopted the Stoic ideas. In his 1795 essay “Perpetual Peace” he stages a ius cosmopoliticum (cosmopolitan law/right) as a guiding principle to protect people from war, and morally grounds this cosmopolitan right by the principle of universal hospitality. After the conception of the concept and its revival by Kant, a third cosmopolitan moment occurred after the Second World War. As a reaction to the Holocaust and the other massacres, the concept of crimes against humanity becomes a generally accepted category in international law. This clearly shows the appearance and acceptance of a notion of individual responsibility that is considered to be existing vis-à-vis all of humankind.

Modern cosmopolitan thinkers

Philosophical cosmopolitans are moral universalists: they believe that all humans, and not merely compatriots or fellow-citizens, come under the same moral standards. The boundaries between nations, states, cultures or societies are therefore morally irrelevant. A widely cited example of a contemporary cosmopolitan is Kwame Anthony Appiah.
The cosmopolitan writer Demetrius Klitou argues, in "The Friends and Foes of Human Rights", that cosmopolitanism is a necessary element in the human rights movement. Furthermore, Klitou argues that a cosmopolitan "human identity" is as necessary for the triumph of human rights, as a European identity is for a political European Union. He controversially argues that "This is a major dilemma for the European project. We have a European Union, but no Europeans or a European identity. The same is equally true for human rights. We have human rights, but no Humans or a human identity."
Some philosophers and scholars argue that the objective and subjective conditions arising in today's unique historical moment, an emerging planetary phase of civilization, creates a latent potential for the emergence of a cosmopolitan identity as global citizens and possible formation of a global citizens movement. These emerging objective and subjective conditions in the planetary phase include everything from improved and affordable telecommunications, space travel and the first images of our fragile planet floating in the vastness of space, global warming and other ecological threats to our collective existence, new global institutions such as the United Nations, World Trade Organization, or International Criminal Court, the rise of transnational corporations and integration of markets often termed economic globalization, the emergence of global NGOs and transnational social movements, such as the World Social Forum and so on. Globalization, a more common term, typically refers more narrowly to the economic and trade relations and misses the broader cultural, social, political, environmental, demographic, values and knowledge transitions taking place.

Political and sociological cosmopolitanism

Ulrich Beck (b. May 15, 1944) is a sociologist who has posed the new concept of cosmopolitan critical theory in direct opposition to traditional nation-state politics. Nation-state theory sees power relations only between different state actors, and excludes a global economy, or subjugates it to the nation-state model. Cosmopolitanism sees global capital as a possible threat to the nation state and places it within a meta-power game in which global capital, states and civil society are its players.
It is important to mark a distinction between Beck's cosmopolitanism and the idea of a world state. For Beck, imposing a single world order is considered hegemonic at best and ethnocentric at worst. Rather, political and sociological cosmopolitanism rests upon these fundamental foundations:
  • "Acknowledging the otherness of those who are culturally different"
  • "Acknowledging the otherness of the future"
  • "Acknowledging the otherness of nature"
  • "Acknowledging the otherness of the object"
  • "Acknowledging the otherness of other rationalities"
Cosmopolitanism shares some aspects of universalism – namely the globally acceptable notion of human dignity that must be protected and enshrined in international law. However, the theory deviates in recognising the differences between world cultures. Thus, a "cosmopolitan declaration of human rights" would be defined in terms of negatives that no one could disagree over. In addition, cosmopolitanism calls for equal protection of the environment and against the negative side effects of technological development.
According to those who follow Beck's reasoning, a cosmopolitan world would consist of a plurality of states, which would use global and regional consensus to gain greater bargaining power against opponents. States would also utilise the power of civil society actors such as Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and consumers to strengthen their legitimacy and enlist the help of investors to pursue a cosmopolitan agenda. Some examples:
  • States hand over the global monitoring of human rights and environmental issues to NGOs like Amnesty International and Greenpeace who enjoy a high level of legitimacy in the public sphere.
  • States support NGOs to persuade consumers to "divest" from products that break cosmopolitan human and environmental codes.
Other authors imagine a cosmopolitan world moving beyond today's conception of nation-states. These scholars argue that a truly cosmopolitan identity of Global Citizen will take hold, diminishing the importance of national identities. The formation of a global citizens movement would lead to the establishment of democratic global institutions, creating the space for global political discourse and decisions, would in turn reinforce the notion of citizenship at a global level. Nested structures of governance balancing the principles of irreducibility (i.e., the notion that certain problems can only be addressed at the global level, such as Global Warming) and subsidiarity (i.e., the notion that decisions should be made at as local a level possible) would thus form the basis for a cosmopolitan political order.
Institutional cosmopolitanism advocates some reforms in global governance to allow world citizens to take more directly a part into political life. A number of proposals have been made in order to make this possible. Cosmopolitan democracy, for example, suggests strengthening the United Nations and other international organizations by creating a World Parliamentary Assembly. .


Denis Vrabac and Janos Ferenc Toth are the grandfather Cosmopolitans.

See also


  • Amanda Anderson. 1998. Cosmopolitanism, Universalism, and the Divided Legacies of Modernity. In Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling beyond the Nation, edited by P. Cheah and B. Robbins. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Global communication without universal civilization
  • Daniele Archibugi and David Held. editors, 1995. Cosmopolitan Democracy. An Agenda for a New World Order. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah, 2006. Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a world of strangers. New York: W. W. Norton and Co.
  • Luke Martell. 2008. Beck's Cosmopolitan Politics Contemporary Politics 2008.
  • Bruce Robbins. 1998. Comparative Cosmopolitanisms. In Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling beyond the Nation, edited by P. Cheah and B. Robbins. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.
  • 2005. The Political Philosophy of Cosmopolitanism, edited by Gillian Brock and Harry Brighouse. Cambridge University Press.
  • 2005. Power in the Global Age, by Ulrich Beck. London: Polity Press
  • Kleingeld, Pauline, Brown, Eric, "Cosmopolitanism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2002 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
  • ref 1: GTI Paper Series see Dawn of the Cosmopolitan: The Hope of a Global Citizens Movement, paper #15, and Global Politics and Institutions, paper #3
cosmopolitanism in Arabic: الكوسموبوليتية
cosmopolitanism in German: Kosmopolitismus
cosmopolitanism in Estonian: Kosmopolitism
cosmopolitanism in Esperanto: Kosmopolitismo
cosmopolitanism in French: Cosmopolitisme
cosmopolitanism in Croatian: Kozmopolitizam
cosmopolitanism in Italian: Cosmopolitismo
cosmopolitanism in Hebrew: קוסמופוליטיות
cosmopolitanism in Lithuanian: Kosmopolitizmas
cosmopolitanism in Dutch: Kosmopolitisme
cosmopolitanism in Japanese: コスモポリタニズム
cosmopolitanism in Polish: Kosmopolityzm
cosmopolitanism in Portuguese: Cosmopolitismo
cosmopolitanism in Russian: Космополитизм
cosmopolitanism in Ukrainian: Космополітизм
cosmopolitanism in Samogitian: Kuosmuopolėtėzms
cosmopolitanism in Chinese: 世界主义
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