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The Cosmopolitan Society and its Enemies

Ulrich Beck

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N THIS article I want to discuss three questions: (1) What is a cosmopolitan sociology? (2) What is a cosmopolitan society? (3) Who are the enemies of cosmopolitan societies?

What is a Cosmopolitan Sociology? Let me start by attempting to nail a pudding to the wall, that is, defining the key terms ‘globalization’ and ‘cosmopolitanization’. At the beginning of the 21st century the conditio humana cannot be understood nationally or locally but only globally. ‘Globalization’ is a non-linear, dialectic process in which the global and the local do not exist as cultural polarities but as combined and mutually implicating principles. These processes involve not only interconnections across boundaries, but transform the quality of the social and the political inside nation-state societies. This is what I define as ‘cosmopolitanization’: cosmopolitanization means internal globalization, globalization from within the national societies. This transforms everyday consciousness and identities significantly. Issues of global concern are becoming part of the everyday local experiences and the ‘moral life-worlds’ of the people. They introduce significant conflicts all over the world. To treat these profound ontological changes simply as myth relies on a superficial and unhistorical understanding of ‘globalization’, the misunderstandings of neoliberal globalism. The study of globalization and globality, cosmopolitanization and cosmopolitanism constitutes a revolution in the social sciences (Beck, 2000a, 2002a; Cheah and Robbins, 1998; Gilroy, 1993; Shaw, 2000; Therborn, 2000; Urry, 2000). Of course, the new interest in cosmopolitanism has been critically associated with those elite Western individuals who were the fullest expression of European bourgeois capitalism and colonial empires. But we need
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