Review of Gillian Brock (ed.) Cosmopolitanism Versus Non-Cosmopolitanism

Beginning with Charles Beitz’s groundbreaking work in the seventies, cosmopolitans have argued for the extension of social justice beyond the boundaries of the state, while statists generally reject this extension. The essays collected in this book, accordingly, could be read as attempts to reconsider and revitalise the cosmopolitanism-statism distinction, while at the same time moving beyond it.

Michael Blake sets the stage by arguing that, since moral cosmopolitanism – i.e., the moral equality of persons – is widely accepted, ‘cosmopolitanism’ is not a theoretically distinctive term any more. His position is supported by the contributions of Samuel Freeman, Andrea Sangiovanni, David Reidy and, to some extent, Laura Valentini, who each in their own way argue that moral cosmopolitanism does not support the extension model, while at the same time rejecting the statist argument and proposing alternative principles of international justice. Lea Ypi provides a provocative counterargument according to which cosmopolitan theory needs to be radicalised rather than abandoned, endorsing the rejection of compatriot favouritism and the establishment of a global political authority. Her position receives support from Darrel Moellendorf, Simon Keller and Fabian Schuppert, who each challenge the view that cosmopolitanism is inconsistent with civic virtue or collective self-determination, as well as by Miriam Ronzoni’s argument that political and institutional cosmopolitanism do not require the endorsement of moral cosmopolitanism. Richard Miller and Thomas Pogge, both venerable veterans of this debate, conclude by addressing the different positions and offer possible paths for future research.

Overall, this is a well-assembled and useful collection. However, some opportunities seemed to me to have been missed. While all of the contributions are of a very high standard, not all of them will be equally illuminating to readers familiar with the debate, as some are little more than restatements of familiar positions which can be found elsewhere. This is not necessarily a flaw, of course – it is only in comparison to the contributions which do make an attempt to tackle the wider discussion over the ‘state of the art’ of cosmopolitan theory that the missed potential of this scholarly discussion is highlighted. Additionally, several pairs of essays could be read as stating contrasting positions on specific points (most clearly Saladin Meckled-Garcia and Elizabeth Ashford on human rights). Gillian Brock’s introduction helpfully points to these recurring themes and questions and aligns the different contributions according to them, but it might have been helpful to organise the book around such themes to illustrate the theoretical landscape better. These, however, are minor criticisms, and should not diminish the book’s value as a guide to these intricate and fascinating debates.

Gillian Brock (ed.) (2013) Cosmopolitanism versus Non-Cosmopolitanism: Critiques, Defenses, Reconceptualizations. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 331pp, £55.00 (h/b), ISBN 9780199678426

(Note: this is not the final version of this review. The definitive version will is published in the May 2015 issue of Political Studies Review)


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