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http://tcs.sagepub.com The Cosmopolitan Condition: Why Methodological Nationalism Fails
Ulrich Beck Theory Culture Society 2007; 24; 286 DOI: 10.1177/02632764070240072505 The online version of this article can be found at: http://tcs.sagepub.com
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it was class and in particular the rise of the working class. a contested term. We should not forget that classical sociology was the product of national struggles. postcolonial studies. postfeminism. There are two dimensions of this: a historical and a systematic understanding of methodological nationalism.g. these analyses are condensing into the paradigm of a ‘Cosmopolitan Sociology’ (Beck. fraternity became solidarity and national integration. At its centre there is. Talcott Parsons adopted a comparative sociological approach and was a student of European social thought. The boundaries separating it from competing terms like globalization. international relations. individualization. In North America.. but the political inspiration for his sociology was nationalistic. which calls for a re-thinking of cosmopolitanism for the social sciences. 2006. which is a century of Europe that fell heir to the Western part of the Roman Empire north of the Mediterranean. global cultural studies. . which subsumes society under the nation-state. Most classical sociology today is the study of the ‘national society’ under the umbrella of ‘society’. Beck and Sznaider. there is no uniform interpretation in the growing literature. international law. actor-network and science and technology studies. on the other. of course. the search for new research methods and strategies and. on the one hand. methodological nationalism. Dealing with otherness includes the otherness of nature and the materiality of threats which is not the focus of this article. are not distinct. transnationalism. but his sociological interest and approach was American. which was seen as the great social problem and the solidarity of the nation-state was seen as the solution. 2008 © 2007 Theory. but there is an identifiable intellectual movement – working on ‘New Cosmopolitanism’ or ‘Realistic Cosmopolitanism’ – united by at least three interconnected commitments: (1) a shared critique of methodological nationalism. geography. European sociology was formulated within a nationalist paradigm and that any cosmopolitan sentiments were snuffed out by the horrors of the Great Wars. Culture & Society 24(7–8) The Cosmopolitan Condition Why Methodological Nationalism Fails Ulrich Beck Keywords cosmopolitanism. Weber employed a Darwinistic view of international relations in which he observed that future generations would hold his generation responsible for not creating sufficient ‘elbow room’ in East Germany to support a strong German state. mobility and migration research. in the Freiburg Inaugural Lecture. a shared critique of methodological nationalism. and (3) the shared assumption that for this reason we need some kind of methodological cosmopolitanism.286 Theory. Jürgen Habermas  and David Held ) read Kant’s world citizenship sociologically. In his The System of Modern Societies (1971: 1). Downloaded from http://tcs. Of course. the Franco– German War of 1870 and the First World War at the beginning of the 20th century. risks First. ethnography. Parsons starts with the admission that the thesis that informs his work is that the modern type of society has emerged in a single evolutionary area. at present. 2006). universalism. the same national paradigm is evident. Indeed. modernity. In sociology. The society of western Christendom.sagepub. the West. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. but an essential part of the programme of cosmopolitan sociology (Latour. Both tendencies can be clearly distinguished from the philosophical-normative cosmopolitanism dominant until now. etc. the debates on ‘new wars’ and human rights as well as mass media communication science. provided the base for which we shall call the ‘system’ of modern societies ‘took of ’. Responding to the ‘ghost of Marx’. whose authors (e. the question as to new forms of dealing with otherness in society in an increasingly globalized world. to mention only the most important. The newly awakened interest in cosmopolitanism is fed by various sources: globalization research. A t the beginning of the 21st century. In the methodological nationalism of Emile Durkheim. It is evident that. Culture & Society Ltd. Cosmopolitanism is. we are witnessing a global transformation of modernity. in the 19th century. Max Weber’s sociology involved a comparative study of economic ethics of world religions.com at University of Warwick on March 19. 2003). (2) the shared diagnosis that the 21st century is an age of cosmopolitanism. glocalization. All rights reserved. then.
It assumes that humanity is naturally divided into a limited number of nations. we see that reality itself has become cosmopolitan. and so on. Human beings must find a meaning of life in the exchange with others and no longer in the encounter with the like. does not mean – as it did for Immanuel Kant – an asset. we do not understand the new global meta-power game. and the impure actual enforced cosmopolitization. which on the inside. on the one hand. epistemological shift. today. we do not understand the ‘global generation’ and its transnational fragments. only become real deductively in a translation of the sublime principles of philosophy. nationalism. stripped of its necessity.com at University of Warwick on March 19. The Cosmopolitan Condition The Cosmopolitan Condition can be explained. which at the same time could stimulate us. map and understand the Cosmopolitan Condition. and sees states and their governments as the cornerstones of a social sciences analysis. The question for the research agenda following the epistemological turn is: what happens when the premises and boundaries that define the units of empirical research and theory disintegrate? The answer is that the whole conceptual world of the ‘national outlook’ becomes disenchanted. organize themselves as nation-states. All rights reserved. set boundaries to distinguish themselves from other nation-states. In the 1960s. that governs the sociological imagination. enforced. and on the outside.Problematizing Global Knowledge – Commentaries 287 Systematically. Second. denial. of Germany. non-national units of research? What are post-national concepts of the social and the political? How can we invent a methodology of ‘cosmopolitan understanding’ in order to decode the multi-ethnic. both past and present: the unintended result of the radicalization of modernity is a disempowerment of Western states. BSE or the mass media. Global risks tear down national boundaries and jumble together the native with the foreign. methodological nationalism takes the following ideal premises for granted: it equates society with nation-state societies. Cosmopolitanization in world risk society opens our eyes to the uncontrollable liabilities that something might happen to us. however. in sharp contrast to their empowerment before and during the 19th-century wave of globalization (Beck. I propose. for example. that a clear distinction is to be made between the philosophical and normative ideas of cosmopolitanism.? In other words. on the other. but also and above all through the back door of global risks. in this sense. third. Hannah Arendt (1958) analysed the Human Condition. We do not understand that the nation-state legitimacy of social inequalities is being challenged to its core by universalized human rights. there is a shared assumption that for that reason we need some kind of ‘methodological cosmopolitanism’. as well as the competition between nation-states. unintended. to make borders transcend new beginnings. 2005). Of course. capitalist. lose their sharp contours. This is because we are captured by zombie categories. multi-religious conflicts insight of France. To the extent that the second phase was successful. the insight began to gain ground that the nation-state unit of research has become arbitrary when the distinctions between national and international.. And it is exactly this methodological nationalism that prevents the social science from getting at the heart of the dynamics of modernization and globalization. local and global. Jean-François Lyotard (1984) the Postmodern Condition. the social science stance is rooted in the concept of the nation-state. for example. Cosmopolitanism. As prisoners of methodological nationalism we do not understand Europeanization. justice and history. then. It goes even further: this outer delimitation. the shared diagnosis that the 21st century is becoming an age of cosmopolitanism. This is what I call ‘enforced cosmopolitanization’: global risks activate and connect actors across borders. who otherwise don’t want to have anything to do with one another. We need an alternative which replaces ontology with methodology: what are alternative. sociology is threatening to become a zombie science. a task. conceptual refinement and empirical research. law. in the 1970s. Indeed.sagepub. second. 2008 © 2007 Theory. and. the sociology for the 21st century has to be reinvented. . in relation to global risks. might befall us and. 9/11. The crucial point about this distinction is that cosmopolitanism cannot. Down through history. now at the beginning of the 21st century we have to discover. The experience of global risks – Chernobyl. etc. that is to order the world. idealistic. and on a global scale? How does cosmopolitanism relate to universalism. relativism. Risks cut through the Downloaded from http://tcs. The distant other is becoming the inclusive other. imperialistic. a museum piece of antiquated ideas. Third. the experience of the Asian tsunami which induced a planetary torrent of sorrow – is an occurrence of abrupt and full confrontation of the apparently excluded other. Everyday life is becoming cosmopolitan. presents the most fundamental category of political organization. unseen. Culture & Society Ltd. It is a nation-state outlook on society and politics. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. us and them. there is a lot of controversy about what this means. cosmopolitanism was detained of being elitist. We can distinguish three phases in how the code word ‘globalization’ has been used in the social sciences: first.
This is not wishful thinking. there is a historic alternative of political action. My aim is a non-nostalgic New Critical Theory to look at both the past and the future of modernity. destabilizing markets and activating the power of that sleeping giant. transnational civil society movements. The condition is. (1) The nation-state. whose outcome is completely open-ended. (2) But this is normal sociology. it Is There a Historic Alternative of Political Action? It is precisely this question that I have tried to answer in my book Power in the Global Age (Beck. but also those between global business and the state. It is a game in which boundaries. the goal of global civil society and its actors is to achieve a connection between civil society and the state. they all are dependent on alliances. who on a dark night is trying to find his lost wallet in the cone of light from a street lamp. . has become a meta-power game. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. This common activity by strangers across borders means freedom.288 Theory. The word for this is neither ‘utopianism’ nor ‘pessimism’ but ‘ambivalence’. ‘No. This is the way. All freedom is contained in this ability to begin. Its orthodoxy says: There is only one revolutionary power.sagepub. overthrow the order of power that has formed in the neo-liberal capital-state coalition: global risks empower states and civil society movements. resembles a drunk man. To the question: Did you actually lose your wallet here?.’ In other words. on the contrary. he replies. It is quite possible that the end result could be the gloomy perspective. Human beings enter into relations across borders. A clear distinction. There is a Downloaded from http://tcs. Here I can outline only two premises: (1) world risk society brings a new. which ignore and oppose one another. religions and systems as well as the national and international agenda of politics. but in the light of the street lamp I can at least look for it. The shock of danger is a call for a new beginning.com at University of Warwick on March 19. while the other actors – nation-states and civil society movements remain bound by the limited options of action and power of the national and international order. which counteracts the loss to globalized capital of the commanding power of state politics. 2008 © 2007 Theory. The expectation of the unexpected requires that the self-evident is no longer taken as self-evident. that we have totally ineffective and authoritarian state regimes (even in the context of the Western democracies). historic key logic to the fore: No nation can cope with its problems alone. How to live in the shadow of global risks? How to live. (2) A realistic political alternative in the global age is possible. in simplified terms. basic rules and basic distinctions are renegotiated – not only those between the national and the international spheres. The goal of the strategies of capital is. global risks are producing ‘failed states’ – even in the West (latest example: the Iraq war). then. which global risks open up. 2005). and that is capital. Perhaps this nostalgia can be overcome by the theory of world risk society. All rights reserved. in which the hazy power game of global domestic politics opens up its own immanent alternatives and oppositions. languages. the consumer. but as a strategic game for world power. to bring about what I call a cosmopolitan form of statehood (including a cosmopolitan form of democracy). supra-national organizations and national governments and societies. The existential shock of danger – therein lies the fundamental ambivalence of global risks – opens up unintentionally (and often also unseen and underutilized) the (mis)fortune of a possible new beginning (which is no reason for false sentimentality). No single player or opponent can ever win on their own. when old certainties are shattered or are now revealed as lies? Arendt’s answer anticipates the ambivalence of risk. Yes. The strategies of action. they overturn their priorities and create contexts for action between camps. The first one. The new global domestic politics that is already at work here and now. Conversely. The state structure evolving under the conditions of world risk society could be characterized in terms of both inefficiency and post-democratic authority. because they reveal new sources of legitimation and options for action for these groups of actors. which attempts to deal with global risks in isolation. on the other hand. beyond the national–international distinction. because the consequences of investment decisions contribute to creating global risks. nostalgia and ‘kulturkritischer Pessimismus’ built into the foundations of sociological thought which has never disappeared – starting with Max Weber and today including Foucault. system theory and postmodernism. which is dominant today.. Culture & Society Ltd. which rewrites the rules of the global power order. This dominant coalition of capital and national minimal state is in no position to respond to the challenges of world risk society. that globalization must be decoded not as economic fate. action is possible. to merge capital with the state in order to open up new sources of legitimacy in the form of the neoliberal state. has to be made between rule and inefficiency. therefore. What is meant by that can be explained with reference to Hannah Arendt. Culture & Society 24(7–8) self-absorption of cultures. parties and quarrelling nations. gives the priority of power to global capital. Where there is a new beginning. they disempower globalized capital. that is.
who..Problematizing Global Knowledge – Commentaries 289 is an expression of a cosmopolitan realpolitik. the perception of their rating changes – from trustee to suspect. that between national and international spheres. without offering any ready solution to the resulting problems. solidarity. which cannot be adequately addressed by way of national politics. whose Downloaded from http://tcs. they both ignore the historical fact that the distinction. The maxims of nation-based realpolitik – that national interests must necessarily be pursued by national means – must be replaced by the maxims of cosmopolitan realpolitik: the more cosmopolitan our political structures and activities. Neither science. It is about more modernity and the crises it produces. and so on. The individual is forced to mistrust the promises of rationality of these key institutions. Disembedding without embedding – this is the formula for this dimension of individualization: the individual. and now a cosmopolitan mixture in global sociology could give birth to a cosmopolitan vision for the humanities. Of course. . We then have to ask: How might we conceptualize a world in a set of global dynamics in which the problematic consequences of radicalized modernization effectually eliminate cornerstones and logics of action – certain historically produced fundamental distinctions and basic institutions – of its nation-state order? Thus my theory of ‘reflexive or second modernity’ is about the unintended consequences and challenges of the success of modernity. people are thrown back onto themselves. this role was assumed by the French post-modernists.com at University of Warwick on March 19. nor the politics in power. Culture & Society Ltd. nor the law or even the military are in a position to define or control risks rationally. including terrorist networks. All the past and present practical experiences of human beings in dealing with uncertainty now exist side by side. including the key concepts (and theories) of society. class. because it presupposes the national–international dualism – as does John Meyer’s concept of ‘world polity’. which underpins their view of the world. They are no longer seen only as instruments of risk management.. At the same time we observe the rise of (what might be called) the ‘individualization of war’: the transnational super-empowerment of the individual vis-à-vis the super-state power But that is a different story. namely. Not only that: key institutions of modernity such as science. whose senses fail him in the face of ungraspable threats.sagepub. state. not least in relation to a highly mobile world economy. the more successful they will be in promoting national interests and the greater our individual power in this global age will be. How does this renewed cosmopolitan curiosity and sociological imagination relate to the postSecond World War period of sociological thinking? In the 1960s. As a consequence. nor business. nor by the available forms of international co-operation. In an age of global crises and risks. Sustaining an individual self of integrity in world risk society is indeed a tragic affair. such as ‘world system theory’ (Wallerstein. they are alienated from expert systems but have nothing else instead. generation. Consequences for Sociological Theory and Research How does this relate to the basic conceptual ideas of international sociology which have appeared since the 1970s. Global risks are the expression of a new form of global interdependence. thrown back on himself. is blind to dangers. Indeed. This opens up the horizon for a new Cosmopolitan Critical Theory which investigates the social and political grammar of the Cosmopolitan Condition and therefore has a strong standing against the Tragic Individualization As a consequence. 2008 © 2007 Theory. Nonetheless. The individual must cope with the uncertainty of the global world by him. a politics of ‘golden handcuffs’ – the creation of a dense network of transnational interdependencies – is exactly what is needed in order to regain national autonomy. yet must. sovereignty. trust. All rights reserved. business and politics. Here individualization is the default outcome of a failure of expert systems to manage risks. In the 1980s. which are supposed to guarantee rationality and security. the Frankfurt School and the Critical Theory dominated the intellectual movements. find themselves confronted by situations in which their apparatus no longer has purchase and the fundamental principles of modernity no longer automatically hold good. but also as a source of risk. remains at the same time unable to escape the power of definition of expert systems. but not about post-modernity. there are fundamental ambivalences. judgement he cannot. everyday life in world risk society is characterized by a new variant of individualization. Even though both concepts are powerful in producing extremely interesting empirical interpretations.or herself. The historic examples of globally empowered individuals are transnational actor-networks and movements. it was this duality that helped to shape the world of the first modernity. is now dissolving. I am talking here about only one large transnational fraction of everyday life in world risk society. nor the mass media. 2004) and ‘world polity’ (Drori et al. legitimacy. 2006)? Immanuel Wallerstein’s ‘world system theory’ is still captured by an enlarged methodological nationalism. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
M. Englewood Cliffs. a crucial question is whether such landmarks are recognized beyond the limits of the cultural history of specific social groups. M. The nature and complexity of the Downloaded from http://tcs.). U. Durham. He is the founding director of a research centre at the University of Munich – Reflexive Modernization – financed since 1999 by the DFG (German Research Society). J-F. J. Cambridge. Arantes Keywords cultural heritage. and the British Journal of Sociology Visiting Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics and Sciences. research and theory. NJ: Prentice-Hall. Ulrich Beck is Professor of Sociology at the University of Munich. (2004) World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction. H. Manchester: Manchester University Press (original edn 1979). Beck. Cosmopolitan Governance. (2001) The Postnational Constellation. experts. providing shared references to historical change and continuity. London: Polity Press. Held.. NC: Duke University Press. British Journal of Sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press. Sznaider (2006) ‘Unpacking Cosmopolitanism for the Social Sciences: A Research Agenda’. and N. Theory. (2006) The Cosmopolitan Vision. Pensky. (1971) The Systems of Modern Societies. British Journal of Sociology 58(4): 680–705. (1958) The Human Condition.290 Theory. raising public interest and institutional concern with inventorying and protecting cultural diversity. G. Lyotard. (2007) ‘Beyond Class and Nation: Reframing Social Inequalities in a Globalized World’. local knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.. as this issue was the T he construction of social memory and the preservation of cultural heritage are closely related practices concerning the reproduction of social life. trans. D.S. social and economic development gap between such inner and outer cultural. U. Culture & Society Ltd. political and economic domains tend to vary widely and become particularly complex depending on the values attached to cultural diversity in the social environments concerned. Special Issue 57(1). So. Wallerstein. Cambridge: Polity Press.com at University of Warwick on March 19. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. T. The global turn of cultural production gave new significance to objects and ideas that convey senses of localization and/or cultural singularity. (1984) The Postmodern Condition. U. . Drori. References Arendt. which values are attributed to them beyond their more immediate symbolic boundaries and whether they effectively participate in the processes of social identification that underlies the formation of hegemonies and of national cultures. Beck. His research interests focus on risk society. MA: MIT Press.sagepub. Meyer and H. B. Beck. global public sphere. the latter is a specialized activity that necessarily involves professionals. (2003) ‘Is Remodernization Occurring? And if So. All rights reserved. Ulrich Beck is the co-editor of Soziale Welt and editor of Zweite Moderne at Suhrkamp (Frankfurt a. (1995) Democracy and the Global Order: From the Modern State to Diversity. Both create affective and cognitive landmarks. Hwang (eds) (2006) Globalization and Organization: World Society and Organizational Change. Habermas. governmental agencies. regional and multilateral organizations and NGOs whose institutional cultures. Heritage and Cultural Politics Antonio A. and ed. The implications of this shift not only concern the so-called creative industries. one major difference between them lies in the fact that while the former mainly concerns social agencies and actors belonging to specific social milieux. globalization. How to Prove it? A Commentary on Ulrich Beck’. Latour. reflexive modernization and cosmopolitanism. J. individualization. 2008 © 2007 Theory. I. Culture & Society 24(7–8) retrogressive idealism of the national perspective in politics. (2005) Power in the Global Age. However. Parsons. This is often the case when officially protected heritage is built on the basis of popular and indigenous cultural practices. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Beck. U. Culture & Society 20(2): 35–48. political commitments and economic priorities may differ from – and sometimes are in conflict with – local social realities.
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