The Cosmopolitan Predicament   /   Fall 2009   /    Reviews

The Universe in a Grain of Sand?

Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism Reconsidered

Johann N. Neem

Sand at Southport; flickr.

There is a contradiction, many claim, between the modern nation-state and liberalism’s promise of universal human rights. The former circumscribes the globe into communities, provincializing liberalism’s reach. The latter, however, ignores the fact that human beings live in, have always lived in, and are shaped fundamentally by the communities to which they belong. Despite the fact that both modern individualism and the nation-state emerged together, and share the same core principles—internal cohesion, autonomy, equality relative to others—many scholars and activists today wish to do away with nationalism and replace it with a world committed to promoting rights at the global level.11xOn the theoretical and historical parallels between the liberal individual and the nation, see Jean Bethke Elshtain, Sovereignty: God, State, and Self (New York: Basic, 2008); Nicholas Onuf and Peter S. Onuf, Nations, Markets, and War: Modern History and the American Civil War (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2006).

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