The Clash of Cosmopolitanisms: The European Union from Cosmopolitization to Neo-Liberalization


It is clear that the European Union (EU) is currently in the worst crisis situation it has ever been in. The forms of social solidarity, inter-national cooperation, and trans-national structures and processes that many commentators have seen as the basis of ‘cosmopolitan’ Europe’ are under severe strain. Dec-ades of apparent cosmopolitization - of political bodies, economic networks, social connections and the patterns of everyday life - seem to be rapidly going into reverse, being pulled apart or self-destructing. If the last several decades could be understood as involving the increasing appearance and strength (albeit unevenly and in contested ways) of cosmopolitan features both within the EU as an entity and ‘inside’ its external borders, then today the tearing fabric of ‘European’ life seems to point in the opposite direction. This paper poses the question: how ‘cosmopolitan’ really was the EU before the current set of crises, and how have the latter undermined what cosmopolitan features there were? The argument proposed is that the EU was from the very beginning ambivalently cosmopolitan, for it was structured around a liberal-economic, market-based cosmopolitanism, as well as a rights-based conception of citizenship and democ-racy, a kind of legal-political cosmopolitanism. Both forms of cosmopolitanism existed up until recently in a highly ambivalent relationship with each other. But as over time, and especially from the late 1970s, liber-al-economic cosmopolitanism mutated into neo-liberal cosmopolitanism, then the tensions between the two cosmopolitanisms now stand out very starkly, and have reached breaking point. The nature and con-sequences of this situation are diagnosed.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v8i3p736

Keywords: Cosmopolitanism; cosmopolitanisms; Europe; European Union; EU; Kant; Marx; crisis


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