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Call for Abstracts

Critical Foundations of Contemporary Cosmopolitanism

Conference, New Europe College, Bucharest, November 1-2, 2013

Keynote speakers:

Daniele Archibugi (Birkbeck and CNR, Rome)
James Bohman (tbc), (St. Louis)
Costas Douzinas (Birkbeck)
Oliver Marchart (Düsseldorf)


The core idea of cosmopolitanism is that all human beings belong to a single community and the ultimate units of moral concern are individual human beings, not states or particular forms of human associations. Universal overarching universal principles are inevitable in constructing a cosmopolitan theory and every new proposal of a cosmopolitan approach risks formulating a new legitimating “grand narrative” in the alleged post-metaphysical and post-universalistic theoretical framework. Given this main tension of cosmopolitan theories, the challenge would be to think cosmopolitanism in non-totalizing and post-universalist terms. Nevertheless, is cosmopolitanism possible without universalism? Should we resist all universalizing thinking? How can one justify cosmopolitan values without relying on some conceptions of a common human nature? Should we look for foundations of the cosmopolitan rights, norms and values? Alternatively, should we aim towards a cosmopolitanism without foundations or towards a cosmopolitanism with ‘contingent foundations’?

In the recent normative political theories with an incontestable cosmopolitan potential, - Rawls, Habermas and their followers - the metaphysical objectivity of the alleged universal values has been replaced by the intersubjective validity attainable through “reasoning from the point of view of others”, consensus and agreement. Nevertheless, with their accents on “anticipated agreement”, “overlapping consensus” “reasons that all can accept”, the discursive justifications of the universality of cosmopolitanism risk either to postulate a global consensus or to re-affirm the importance of the nation-state. On the other hand, some of the authors who accept a permanent place of conflict and disagreement in thinking the political (Ch. Mouffe, E. Laclau, J. Ranciere, C. Lefort, A. Badiou, etc.) also tie the practice of disagreement to the level of nation-state, claming that it is inoperative at the global level.

In this context, the challenge is to elaborate a post-foundational concept of cosmopolitanism, without relying on the assumptions of global consensus, but at the same time without giving up the dynamics of disagreement and contestation at the global level. Nevertheless, do disagreement and contestation have a cosmopolitan potential both as practice and as foundation? If cosmopolitanism as disagreement and contestation is a reaction against democratic deficit, inequalities and injustices produced by the existing institutional schemas that are mainly nation-state based, then are disagreement and critique the only cosmopolitan possibilities? Is cosmopolitanism identical with contestation, indeterminacy and negativity?

We cannot aim to ground cosmopolitanism on principles that are undeniable and located outside society and politics, but, then, should the cosmopolitan thinking emerge out of particular empirical, historical conjuncture, like globalization or a certain hegemony? Can we move towards cosmopolitanism through a plurality of acts of grounding (would this still be a cosmopolitanism?) or only through a hegemony? Are empire and hegemony the effects of the attempt to ground cosmopolitanism? Is there an autoimmune logic of cosmopolitanism to start as a philosophical and moral universalism and to fall into imperialism in every attempt to institutionalize it? Can and should cosmopolitanism be institutionalized according to an ultimate foundation or according to ‘contingent foundations’?

Alternatively, is cosmopolitanism the very attempt to come to terms with the failure of ultimate grounds? If we cannot give up the universalizing impetus that disturbs and contests given particular meanings, filiations, identities, sovereignties, nevertheless, we have to avoid our universalizing impetus to become a supplement to empire or hegemony. In this case, is cosmopolitanism identical with a permanent vigilance or, on the contrary, cosmopolitanism is never present, having only the structure of the promise? Should cosmopolitanism be conceived always as a cosmopolitanism ‘to come’ (Derrida) - a cosmopolitanism of an impossible future that will never be present, but which intervenes in our present, like a promise, changing the actual state of affairs?


We invite contributions that address the questions of foundations of cosmopolitanism from perspectives such as: post-foundational political thought, deliberative theories, global public reason, radical/agonistic democracy, cosmopolitan potential of critique, contestatory cosmopolitanism, critical human rights,  cosmopolitanism versus empire and hegemony, ‘cosmopolitanism to come’.

Organizational details

Please submit an abstract of 500 words no later than May 1, 2013 to tcaraus@nec.ro or/and tamara_caraus@yahoo.com. Please also include a separate cover sheet indicating your name, professional status and institutional affiliation. Decision notices will be emailed by May 10, 2013. The deadline for submission of the full paper is September 2, 2013. Selected papers will be published in the proceedings of the conference at an international publishing house. The organizers provide meals. In exceptional cases, accommodation expenses may be reimbursed. For further details or questions, please contact tcaraus@nec.ro or/and tamara_caraus@yahoo.com
This activity is part of the project CRITICAL FOUNDATIONS OF CONTEMPORARY COSMOPOLITANISM supported by a grant of the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research, CNCS-UEFISCDI (code: PN-II-RU-TE-2011-3-0218, contract nr. 98/05.10.2011). Research team: Tamara Caraus, Camil Alexandru Parvu, Dan Dorin Lazea, Aron Telegdi-Csetri, Elena Paris, Laura Pricop.
Address: New Europe College, str. Plantelor 21, sector 2, 023971 Bucharest, Romania