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Cosmopolitanism (from ancient Greek κόσμος kósmos "order, world order, world" and πολίτης polítes "citizen"), also cosmopolitanism , is a philosophical-political worldview that regards the whole world as home . The concept goes back to ancient times . It is in contrast to nationalism and provincialism . In addition, starting in the 1980s, approaches were formulated that wanted to link particularistic and universal ideas.


Diogenes of Sinope first described himself as a citizen of the world. Just as it can be found in its beginnings in the Greek-Hellenic history of ideas, cosmopolitanism is initially a more individualistic philosophy of life . In the philosophy school of the Stoics ( Zenon , Seneca and others) it is also further developed into an ethic .

Renaissance and Enlightenment

Latest World Events : Enlightenment Magazine, written by a world citizen

This philosophy received a powerful boost in the age of Renaissance humanism and the Enlightenment . Many of the great thinkers and writers of the time write about this ideal, for example the Weimar prince educator Christoph Martin Wieland in his work The Secret of the Cosmopolitan Order :

“The cosmopolitans regard all the peoples of the earth as just as many branches of a single family, and the universe as a state in which they are citizens with innumerable other rational beings, in order to promote the perfection of the whole under general laws of nature, each according to its own special kind and is wise for its own prosperity. "(Teutscher Merkur, 1788, p. 107)

Even Lessing writes about the education of mankind . Johann Gottfried Herder joins this with his work Also a Philosophy of History for the Education of Humanity . Best known is Immanuel Kant's essay On Eternal Peace , as it transforms the cosmopolitan idea into a legal philosophy.

Secular and Enlightenment publications such as Latest World Events appeared in the 18th century. This is how Dominikus von Brentano described himself as a citizen of the world on the cover of the latest world events. News coverage should be independent of the Church, only important and true reports that should serve to educate mankind should be made.

20th and 21st centuries

In the 20th century, on November 15, 1956, the then UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld was referred to in an article of the time as the "Cosmopolitan Hammarskjöld". The article describes how Hammarskjöld translates the ideas of cosmopolitanism into cosmopolitanism (world governance). This new reference to cosmopolitanism was made possible, among other things, by the actions of the former US bomber pilot and now stateless “world citizen number 1” Garry Davis from 1948 to 1951, who initiated the world citizenship movement . For example, the occupation of the UN by cosmopolitan activists, including Albert Camus and André Breton, was significant .

In the GDR and before that in the USSR , cosmopolitanism, which was regarded as the imperialist , right-wing and nationalist means of the great Western powers to hold down small states and veil their own nationalism, was opposed to the positive counter-image of proletarian internationalism , according to which socialists were brothers worldwide and all workers in the world had the same interests. In late Stalinism from 1948 onwards, world citizens were described as rootless cosmopolitans who would harm socialist society.

Newer approaches in social and cultural studies

In the postcolonial context, a “new” discourse of cosmopolitanism developed from the 1980s onwards, shaped primarily by literary, cultural and social scientists such as Bruce Robbins , Timothy Brennan , Kwame Anthony Appiah , Arjun Appadurai , James Clifford and Ulrich Beck . In this “new” discourse, an attempt was made to reinterpret the concept of cosmopolitanism against the background of globalization and the confrontation with lingual and ethical and ideological diversity in the networked world. The Cameroonian historian and political philosopher Achille Mbembe defines cosmopolitanism as "the idea of ​​a common world, a common humanity, a history and a future that is only open to us if we share it". Cosmopolitanism is often seen as a concept of competition to multiculturalism, which is perceived as culturally essentialist, within the framework of the nation-state. The expanded and updated term no longer simply follows the idea of ​​a subjective self-ascription as a “citizen of the world”, but tries to a. to achieve a synthesis of particularistic and universal motivations. Detached from elitist class consciousness, for example, Appadurai's Cosmopolitan from Below identifies cosmopolitan behavior among marginalized fringe groups who lack the means and education to correspond to the classic image of the Western cosmopolitan as well-traveled world-understanders. The apparently paradoxical formations of terms such as “patriotic cosmopolitanism”, “rooted cosmopolitanism” or “national cosmopolitanism” are indicative of a new way of looking at the term. The aim was also to reconcile cosmopolitanism with patriotism or the new nationalism . Above all, the city as a showplace of cosmopolitanism is moving into the focus of research.

In the social and cultural sciences, various parallel concepts and definitions of cosmopolitanism have emerged over the past few decades. Steven Vertovec and Robin Cohen assign the various approaches to the following groups. Cosmopolitanism can be seen accordingly

  1. as a socio-cultural condition
  2. as a philosophy or worldview, as an alternative to communitarianism
  3. as a political project, either embodied in transnational institutions (e.g. UN , EU ) or through the political view that people have multiple identities
  4. as an attitude or disposition ("heterophilia", desire for the strange)
  5. as a practice or competence


  • Andrea Albrecht : Cosmopolitanism. de Gruyter, 2005, ISBN 3-11-018198-3 .
  • Christoph Antweiler : People and World Culture. For a realistic cosmopolitanism Transcript, 2011, ISBN 978-3-8376-1634-7 .
  • Christoph Antweiler: Inclusive Humanism. Anthropological Basics for a Realistic Cosmopolitanism . Göttingen: V + R Unipress & Taipeh: National Taiwan University Press (Reflections on (In) Humanity, 4), 2012, ISBN 978-3-8471-0022-5 .
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah : The cosmopolitan - philosophy of world citizenship , Translator from the Engl v... Michael Bischoff , Beck'sche series 1881, Beck Verlag, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-406-58488-6 . (English original edition: Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a world of strangers. WW Norton and Co, New York / London 2006, ISBN 0-393-06155-8 ).
  • Ulrich Beck : The cosmopolitan view. Suhrkamp, ​​2004, ISBN 3-518-41608-1 .
  • Ulrich Beck, Edgar Grande: Cosmopolitan Europe . Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-518-41647-2 .
  • Norbert Bolz (Ed.) U. a .: Cosmopolitanism and globalization. Munich 2000, ISBN 3-7705-3510-3 .
  • Timothy Brennan: At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now . Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1997, ISBN 0-674-05030-4 .
  • Pheng Cheah, Bruce Robbins (Ed.): Cosmopolitics. Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation . University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 1998, ISBN 0-8166-3068-2 .
  • Francis Cheneval: Philosophy in Cosmopolitan Meaning. About the origins and the philosophical foundations of supranational and cosmopolitan thinking in modern times. Schwabe, Basel 2002, ISBN 3-7965-1946-6 .
  • Peter Coulmas : World Citizens - History of a Longing for Humanity. Rowohlt Verlag, 1990, ISBN 3-498-00885-4 .
  • Josef Girshovich, cosmopolitanism, cosmopolitanism and the Leviathan. Berliner Wissenschaftsverlag, 2015, ISBN 978-3-8305-3429-7 .
  • Martina Kamm, Bettina Spoerri , Daniel Rothenbühler, Gianni D'Amato: Discourses in the distance. Cosmopolitan spaces in the literatures of Switzerland. Seismo Verlag, Social Sciences and Social Issues, Zurich 2010, ISBN 978-3-03777-081-8 .
  • Immanuel Kant : Draft for a general story with cosmopolitan intent. 1784.
  • Benedikt Köhler: Sociology of the New Cosmopolitanism . Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-531-15125-8 .
  • Stephan Mögle-Stadel: The indivisibility of the earth - global crisis, cosmopolitanism and world federation. Bouvier Verlag, 1996, ISBN 3-416-02565-2 .
  • Olivier Remaud : Un monde étrange. Pour une autre approche du cosmopolitisme , Presses Universitaires de France, 2015 ISBN 978-2130652168 .
Soviet Union
  • Harriet Murav: Cosmopolitanism. In: Dan Diner (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Jewish History and Culture (EJGK). Volume 3: He-Lu. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2012, ISBN 978-3-476-02503-6 , pp. 424-427.

Web links

Wiktionary: Cosmopolitan  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Cosmopolitan Hammarskjöld . In: The time . No. 46/1956.
  2. Achille Mbembe: Exit from the long night. Experiment on a decolonized Africa, Berlin 2016, p. 119.
  3. s. Arjun Appadurai : Cosmopolitan from Below. Some Ethical Lessons from the Slums of Mumbai. In: Ders .: The Future as Cultural Fact. Essays on the Global Condition. Verso, New York 2013, ISBN 978-1844679829 , pp. 197 ff.
  4. Steven Vertovec, Robin Cohen: Introduction. Conceiving Cosmopolitanism. In this. (Ed.): Conceiving Cosmopolitanism. Theory, Context, and Practice. Oxford University Press, New York 2002, ISBN 978-0199252282 , pp. 1 ff.