Ulrich Beck and Methodological Cosmopolitanism

Ulrich Beck didn’t live to see the Charlie Hebdo attack – he died seven days earlier, on 1 January 2015. I am now reading an article by him, where he argues for methodological cosmopolitanism. He’s taking issue with methodological nationalism, which focuses on the nation as the unit of analysis in social sciences. (That reminded me of similar concerns in comparative literature, leading Spivak to eventually announce the “death” of the discipline.)

Anyway, here’s what he says on the Danish cartoon crisis and I thought many commentaries on Charlie Hebdo resonate with what he says here:

“The third phase [of globalization] uncovers the core unseen, unwanted consequence of this global interconnectivity: the end of the ‘global other’. The global other is here in our midst. Of course, one of the outstanding examples is the cartoon controversy (Kunelius et al 2007). The cartoons epitomize the intersection of the global and local when it comes to communication and conflict in the digital age and to politics too. The global other is and stays in our midst, cannot be excluded any longer. Or to put it this way: even if the Danish government would decide to exclude all Danish or non-Danish Muslims it would not solve the conflict, in fact, the opposite would clearly happen: a global outrage and explosion of conflicts. And exactly this is my point: asking to clearly distinguish between philosophical cosmopolitanism and social scientific cosmopolitization. Cosmopolitanism in Immanuel Kant’s philosophical sense means something active, a task, a conscious and voluntary choice, clearly the affair of an elite, a top-down issue (Kant 1983, 1996). But today in reality a ‘banal’, ‘coercive’ and ‘impure’ cosmopolitization unfolds unwarranted, unseen, very powerful and confrontational beneath the surface or behind the façade of persisting national spaces, jurisdictions and labels; from the top of the society down to everyday life in families, work situations and individual biographies – even as national flags continue to be raised and even if national attitudes, identities and consciousness are strongly being reaffirmed” (2011:19-20).

Some researchers think that cosmopolitanism cannot provide a viable solution to methodological nationalism, but, I thought maybe Beck would have a thing or two to say about the Charlie Hebdo shooting.

Beck, Ulrich (2011) “Cosmopolitan Sociology: Outline of a Paradigm Shift” The Ashgate Research Companion to Cosmopolitanism, Maria Rovisco and Magdalena Nowicka (eds) Farnham/Burlington: Ashgate.

Apparently Beck put forward the idea as early as 2000. And the book cited on the cartoon affair is:

Kunelius, R., Eide, E., Hahn, O. and Schröder, R. (eds) (2007) Reading the Mohammed Cartoons Controversy: An International Analysis of Press Discourses on Free Speech and Political Spin, Bochum/Freiburg: Projektverlag.

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