Telos 180 (Fall 2017): Cosmopolitanism and China

Telos 180 (Fall 2017) is now available for purchase in our store.

In Western as well as international academia today, along with the acceleration of globalization more generally, humanities scholars have constructed a sort of theoretical discourse of globalization. In doing so, they have found it useful to refer to the old-fashioned philosophical concept of cosmopolitanism, which is very close to the theoretical construction of the discourse of globalization. Although it has previously been discussed over the history of Western philosophy, cosmopolitanism is once again a cutting-edge theoretical topic. The term nowadays frequently appears in the works of political philosophers and sociologists, and it is increasingly being taken up and debated by literary and cultural studies scholars as well, particularly with regard to the rise of world literature as the highest phase of comparative literature. Obviously, most of their work interprets and deals with cosmopolitanism from the perspectives of political philosophy and culture, while touching to some degree upon literary and cultural production and criticism. Moreover, most of the scholarship dealing with cosmopolitanism only occurs within a Western context. In this respect, the present special issue of Telos may well fill a gap in international cosmopolitanism scholarship. The recent interest in world literature in the field of comparative literature is undoubtedly associated with the rise of cosmopolitanism in the contemporary era. In the articles collected here, cosmopolitanism will mainly be addressed from literary and cultural perspectives, and, more importantly, they will move beyond the limits of Eurocentric or West-centric ways of thinking and modes of research by dealing exclusively with cosmopolitanism and China: its parallel relations with ancient Chinese philosophy, its impact on modern Chinese literature and intellectual thought, and its recent significance to China’s modernization and globalization.

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Global Islamism and World Society

Jörg Friedrichs’s “Global Islamism and World Society” appears in Telos 163 (Summer 2013). Read the full version online at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue in our store.

The piece is an eye-opener on contestation between global Islamism and cosmopolitan world society. It develops a comprehensive understanding of the former as the communitarian mirror image of the latter. Global Islamism and cosmopolitan world society are presented as varieties of globalization. The objective is to understand global Islamism as a political project and to assess its chances of successfully competing against cosmopolitan world society. This is accomplished by a comparative assessment of the degree to which either of them can achieve social integration, which is a prerequisite for the success of any political project. World society thrives on established forms of political and legal integration, and is buttressed by integration via functional subsystems. Global Islamism relies on the expectation of strong communal engagement and the unapologetic exclusion of dissidents and outsiders. It turns out that global Islamism’s bolder discriminatory practices are a two-edged sword because they also lead to internal divisions, and that global Islamism is not stronger than world society with regard to sociability. Insofar as the integration of Muslims into a universal community of believers is even more utopian than the realization of cosmopolitan world society, global Islamism is at a serious competitive disadvantage and thus bound to be frustrated. Until that happens, conflict between global Islamism and world society will continue to pose significant challenges. It is hoped that these challenges may be better managed when both are recognized as rival globalization projects, and when their mutual incompatibilities are acknowledged.

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Religion and the New Cosmopolitanism in a Postsecular Age

The following paper was presented at the Seventh Annual Telos Conference, held on February 15–17, 2013, in New York City.

Flush with optimism following the end of the Cold War, many American and European scholars openly speculated about the possibilities of a Kantian perpetual peace, returning with renewed vigor to theories of cosmopolitanism. As Amanda Anderson has put it, such cosmopolitanism “endorses reflective distance from one’s cultural affiliations, a broad understanding of other cultures and customs, and a belief in universal humanity.” Indeed, recent developments in communication technology, combined with a proliferation of transnational migrations, have made it possible to truly imagine and experience “navigating beyond one’s state.”

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Marx, Heine, and German Cosmopolitanism

Eleanor Courtemanche’s “Marx, Heine, and German Cosmopolitanism: The 1844 Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher” appears in Telos 159 (Summer 2012). Read the full version online at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue here.

This article argues that Marx’s economic cosmopolitanism was formulated, in part, as a response to the exiled radical poet Heinrich Heine’s satirical attacks on German nationalism. In Paris in 1844, the young journalist Marx collaborated with the revered Heine on the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, which was meant to join German metaphysics and poetry with French socialist politics. Like Heine, Marx was a secular Jew from the border region of the Rhineland who saw French revolutionary politics as Germany’s inevitable destiny. While Heine wrestles with nostalgia for a backwards Prussia in Deutschland: Ein Wintermärchen (published in Vorwärts! in 1844), Marx’s “Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law” argues that Germany must accomplish a difficult backwards somersault (“salto mortale“) over the dialectical boundary of the Rhine to transcend the impasses of French politics and British industrialism. Both Heine and Marx transformed their critique of Prussian autocracy into a more generalized cosmopolitan radicalism, though Heine’s aestheticism is sometimes confounding to Marxist critics. Meanwhile Marx’s engagement with the German tradition of Nationalökonomie is complex: while he critiques the Prussian nationalist use of free trade theories, the internationalism of his economic vision brings him closer to the British classical tradition of Smith and Ricardo than to German romantic protectionists like Friedrich List.

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