The Cosmopolitan Predicament   /   Fall 2009   /    Reviews

A Review of David Harvey’s Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom

Hilde Eliassen Restad

“A better world is possible” has become the rallying cry of the anti- neoliberal globalization movement. In Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom, David Harvey offers his own version of this cry: “a better cosmopolitan theory is possible.” Current cosmopoli- tan theorists predicate their arguments on assumptions about “space” (local, national, international, and global), but fail to critically analyze this concept. These theorists have fallen prey to the “ruses of geographical reason,” accepting what Harvey calls the “banalities of geo- graphical evils” that end up shaping our conception of the world, determining and limiting our cosmopolitan imagina- tion. As he explains in the Epilogue:

Most of the hegemonic social theories…that have shaped dominant interpretations and political practices…over the last three hundred years… have paid little or no critical attention to how the produc- tion of spaces, places, and environments might impinge upon thought and action. In practice, we almost every- where find tacit assumptions about the nature of space and time, the cohesion of places


(the nation-state), and the idea of what is or is not given by nature…. The effect is like trying to navigate the world with any old map, no matter how arbitrary or erroneous it may be.

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