Global Citizenship: Cosmopolitan Futures?
It is by now uncontroversial to suggest that many of the most pressing political problems of our time extend far beyond the borders of the nation state. In recent years political debate has been dominated by issues such as climate change, financial instability, the spread of nuclear weapons, terrorism and insecurity, global health epidemics and the justice of world trade and sovereign debt, to name but a few. But in each case, it is questionable whether the political institutions which present generations have inherited – chief amongst them the institution of the nation state – are up to the task of responding to these problems. Perhaps genuinely global problems, including the need to maintain global public goods such as clean air, a sustainable atmosphere, security, global economic stability and so on – require genuinely global solutions.
Take the case of climate change: the problem of anthropogenic climate change clearly cannot effectively be dealt with by nation states acting individually, for the impacts of such change are likely to be generalized, unpredictable and will not respect state borders in any way. Thus far there has been very little success even when nation states have attempted to work to solve the problem collectively. We seem to face a classic example of a collective action problem. Everyone has an interest in the maintenance of a public good (here a climate conducive to human habitation). If there is disagreement about how exactly to spread the burdens of dealing with climate change, it is at the very least clear that many nations ought to place serious limits on their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Nevertheless, we lack mechanisms to secure compliance on the part of all nation states. In the absence of such mechanisms, individual nations which might be prepared to comply can instead declare that they ought not to bear the burdens alone.
Does this example tell us that a regime of relatively autonomous and self-determining nation states is ill-equipped to deal with the issues which face individuals in the world today? If global institutions should be either created, or strengthened, in order to deal with such issues, can they reasonably be expected to be democratic in character? If they were, would we be acting as global citizens when we engaged with them? It has been claimed that activists and political campaigners who are currently lobbying for climate justice are already acting as global citizens. Is such a claim intelligible?
This chapter seeks to clarify some of these issues through an analysis of the idea of cosmopolitanism. At its most basic level, a commitment to cosmopolitanism entails a belief that individuals (rather than states, or other group entities) are the fundamental units of moral concern; that each individual matters equally and is entitled to equal concern and respect (see Pogge 2002; Held 2003; Caney 2005). But the form of cosmopolitanism we are interested in for the purposes of this chapter invokes the idea of cosmopolitan or global citizenship. Although it has enjoyed a remarkable reemergence as a political ideal in recent years, the notion of cosmopolitan citizenship is almost as old as the idea of citizenship itself. Almost as soon as the ancient Athenians began to specify the duties of citizens of their own city-state, critics such as Diogenes (and the later Stoics) began to describe themselves instead as citizens of a wider human community. As Diogenes himself put it, confronting claims about his duties towards the Athenian state: ‘kosmopolites eimi’ (‘I am a citizen of the world’). But what did he mean by this? Arguments about cosmopolitan citizenship, as will become clear, sometimes refer to cosmopolitan citizenship in the sense of membership of a global human community or a set of global institutions; but they also sometimes refer to moral or ethical allegiances or obligations to all of humanity, in which sense formal membership is less important. It has been a bone of contention ever since whether citizenship must refer to more or less formal membership in a community (as we believe it must), and whether claiming to act as a global citizen – where we mean by this simply acting with regard to universal ethical imperatives – is to risk what Magnette 2005 calls the ‘semantic dilution’ of the concept of citizenship.
In this chapter, we examine three important varieties of cosmopolitan argument, and examine how they each deal with the idea of global or cosmopolitan citizenship. In a sense these are all arguments about the scope of justice, which are concerned to claim that we have either entitlements or duties of global scope. But these ideas have played out in three rather distinct arguments, and the structure of this chapter will stay true to that general division of labour (although as will become apparent later we have doubts about the usefulness of the distinction between cosmopolitanism about ethics and about justice). The first section, then, examines arguments for cosmopolitan democracy, which cashes out cosmopolitanism in a defence of a multi-levelled form of political agency, and understands cosmopolitan citizens to be individuals acting politically at these various levels. The second examines arguments for cosmopolitan distributive justice, which cashes out its cosmopolitanism through the idea of universal entitlements or obligations of distributive justice – but for which the notion of global or cosmopolitan citizenship turns out to be less central. The third examines arguments for cosmopolitan ethics, arguments which are cosmopolitan in the sense that they claim we have universal personal ethical obligations. One prominent example of this kind of argument is the claim that we have individual responsibilities to advance the cause of environmental sustainability.
The chapter aims to establish that we are dealing with divergent conceptions of cosmopolitanism, but also that each argument treats the question of global or cosmopolitan citizenship differently. Whereas arguments for cosmopolitan democracy make a direct claim about the need for membership in a global political community – and whereas arguments for cosmopolitan distributive justice sometimes arrive at the same conclusion, though this is rather more contingent – in the case of ethical cosmopolitanism the connection between citizenship and either membership or community appears much more faint. Much as in the case of Diogenes, what is principally being appealed to here is a claim about the universality of ethical obligation, rather than membership in what we would usually recognize as a community. We recommend caution about this argument, suggesting that the connection between citizenship and membership of a community is a connection we should be reluctant to break if the concept of citizenship is to remain a useful one. The chapter concludes, therefore, by revisiting the subject of cosmopolitanism, and offering some reflections on the prospects for citizenship at the global level.
In recent years the argument that the nation state is no longer the primary arena for political power that it once was has gained considerable currency, although it is not without its sceptics. Indeed for some this waning power provides an explanation for the perceived disaffection of citizens with democratic politics within their own nation states (as discussed in Chapter One). Rather than signalling some deeper malaise – such as a breakdown in civic virtue – perhaps citizens have quite rightly recognized that political power has flown the nest of domestic politics. This disaffection might be a rational response if ‘the locus of effective political power is no longer simply that of national governments’; if ‘effective power is shared, contested and bartered by diverse forces and agencies, public and private, crossing national, regional and international domains’ (Held 2003: 466). Furthermore, it may well be that the principal problems which face us in the contemporary world – ecological degradation, financial instability, terrorism and insecurity, mass migration, global health problems – can only be tackled by bolstered and dedicated global institutions. If all of this is correct, then we ought to spend less time bemoaning the lack of domestic political engagement – though that might be important too – and more time engineering new avenues of political engagement at the transnational and global levels. Given that global institutions exist which do hold power, and given that these should if anything be strengthened and granted new briefs and responsibilities, then mechanisms of participation and accountability which are genuinely global should also be seen as highly desirable.
Many such arguments make reference to the language of cosmopolitanism. Rather than Diogenes, the key intellectual inspiration here usually turns out to be the eighteenth-century philosopher Immanuel Kant. Though he was not a noted advocate of democracy, Kant did argue for a reorganization of authority at the transnational level as a result of which individuals would be ‘citizens of a universal state of human beings’ (Kant 1795 (1970)). The pursuit of a peaceful world order demands a situation whereby citizens would still turn to the state for the defence of many of their rights, but they would also be the subjects of a ‘cosmopolitan right’ (in effect a rather limited one). Contemporary Kantian theorists have worked to develop these ideas into a fuller argument about the universal scope of democratic autonomy (see e.g. Linklater 1998). For David Held, the rise in ‘layers of governance’ within the contemporary world (such as substate regions, the EU or UN) points towards a world of ‘multiple citizenships’, where individuals would be ‘citizens of their immediate political communities, and of the wider regional and global networks which impacted on their lives’ (Held 1995: 233). His definition of cosmopolitan democracy suggests ‘a model of political organization in which citizens, wherever they are located in the world, have a voice, input and political representation in international affairs, in parallel with and independently of their own governments’ (Held 1995: 13).
This is vital in a political environment whereby decisions are continually taken which impact on the life-chances of those not formally party to them. The environment provides a very clear example of this disconnect between impacts and formal representation in decision making, but it is far from unique in a globalized world. At the level of normative principle, we should accept that individuals significantly affected by public decisions, issues or processes should have an equal opportunity to influence and shape them. The only alternative is to claim that we can significantly damage someone's prospects in life without giving them a say in the matter. But we should not apply this principle in cases where the impact is trivial, or fleeting. By singling out the idea of significant impact, Held means to restrict the principle to cases where decisions affect people's ability to fulfil their vital needs (2005: 14).
How are the goals of cosmopolitan democracy to be achieved? One of the most popular short-term goals has been the democratic reform of existing institutions such as the United Nations, taking the form perhaps of a directly globally elected UN Parliament (see also Young 2000; Linklater 2002). There have been calls for the establishment of regional (or continental) parliaments, and for the democratization of global bodies such as the World Trade Organization. These proposals seek to establish a global parallel of the model of democracy which has long been associated with the nation state, with its apparatus of parliaments, parties and representatives, and also to recognize the increasing salience of transnational and even subnational political communities. But some visions of cosmopolitan democracy also embrace less formal varieties of political action. Considerable faith has been placed in the potential of ‘global civil society’ or a global democratic public sphere to serve as a vehicle for global citizenship (Armstrong 2006). For a growing number of commentators, the democratic participation of citizens is also to be expressed through the auspices of international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs), for instance, which are able to interact with, and hopefully influence, international governmental institutions (IGOs) such as the UN, IMF, WTO or World Bank. In relinking global sites of power with the concerns of individual citizens across the globe, and injecting an element of accountability and transparency into ‘global governance’, these INGOs represent the crucible of an emerging ‘global civil society’. This global civil society is charged with reconnecting global sites of power with the aspirations of individual citizens – but it is also argued that engagement with it will engineer a more cosmopolitan consciousness on the part of such citizens themselves. According to (Anheier et al. 2001: 17), ‘global civil society can be seen as an aspiration to reach and include citizens everywhere and to enable them to think and act as global citizens’.1
A number of critics have been sceptical about the claims of cosmopolitan democracy, for various reasons. Some of the scepticism revolves around the claim that we have an entitlement to participate in the making of any decision which significantly affects our interests (a variant of the ‘all-affected interests’ argument, for a defence of which see Goodin 2008). Aren't there some decisions we simply have a right to take alone even though others will be affected by them? Will it be possible to know, in advance, whose interests will be affected by a given decision in any case? Won't that depend on what the decision is, with the apparently paradoxical implication that the decision must be described in detail before we can specify who is to make it? These are formidable objections, though it may be that advocates of global democracy could make their case for the democratization of global institutions without committing themselves to such an ambitious version of that argument. For instance, they might argue that, to the extent that global institutions such as the World Bank or World Trade Organization claim to represent – or at least to act in the interests of – all citizens of the world, those citizens should be able to identify themselves as joint authors of those institutions (and perhaps of their actions too).
A second kind of scepticism tends to grant – at least for the sake of argument – that global democracy and global democratic citizenship would be desirable, but questions whether the conditions for the realization of the cosmopolitan project are in place, or indeed whether they could ever be expected to be in place. Candidates for such conditions would include opportunities for meaningful political participation; a sense of civic responsibility or solidarity with one's fellow citizens; and arguably even a common identity or indeed a common language (see e.g. Kymlicka 1999). Perhaps a functioning democracy is parasitic on a disposition to act with a view to the common good, or the kind of solidarity which only shared nationality reliably provides (on which see Moore 2001). Perhaps we should not expect citizens to be either well informed about, or interested in, the workings of international institutions (Dahl 1999). It might then be said that the conditions for genuine global democratic citizenship are not in place, nor perhaps that they are likely to emerge in the near future (a position we could call weak scepticism); or it might be said that these conditions are not likely to emerge even in the longer term, and that as a result the cosmopolitan position faces certain deep problems (this we can call strong scepticism). Indeed we could usefully distinguish further between the argument that the vision of cosmopolitan democrats is not going to happen, though it is logically possible, and the claim that it is not even possible. The latter claim would be formidably difficult to sustain, but the former, a more plausible version of strong scepticism, simply suggests that we have good reasons not to expect the vision of cosmopolitan democrats ever to be delivered upon in practice.2
Weak scepticism represents a considerable challenge to arguments for global democratic citizenship. Although we should be careful not to romanticize the nature of political activity in contemporary nation states, in which meaningful political participation has become moot too for a variety of reasons (discussed in the first two chapters of this book), thus far opportunities for such participation at the global level are still much more slight. By the same token, calls for both global democracy and global justice (on which see below) may be troubled by the lack of solidarity at the global level. Perhaps we simply lack the requisite motivation to sacrifice our own short-term interests to provide gains for distant foreigners. Here, though, we should not overestimate the degree of solidarity necessary for a political system to function. A certain degree of solidarity may be essential for functioning democratic institutions, not least since that solidarity might provide a guarantee that parties which turn out to find themselves in the minority will be willing to accept that result. And even stronger forms of solidarity might be necessary to support substantial redistribution – although there has been a fairly substantial redistribution from richer to poorer member states within the European Union which, if not necessarily providing evidence of feelings of solidarity and an orientation towards a broad notion of the common good, at least demonstrates European citizens’ general tolerance (or apathy?) towards such measures. But defenders of cosmopolitan citizenship have argued that at least some important goals might be secured without presuming much in the way of solidarity. As Habermas 2006: 143) puts it, ‘if the international community limits itself to securing peace and protecting human rights, the requisite solidarity among world citizens need not reach the level of the implicit consensus on thick political value-orientations that is necessary for the familiar kind of civic solidarity among fellow nationals’. It might also be said that environmental issues, for instance, could provide a (relatively) narrow focus around which a sense of shared fate might emerge, uniting otherwise disparate individuals and communities. Political action intended to tackle the problems attendant on climate change might provide a vehicle for the emergence of thinner forms of solidarity and shared identity. Though such projects may be extremely important, however, they remain much narrower in scope than many of the visions which leading cosmopolitan democrats have otherwise demanded.
Weak scepticism has considerable force, though as we have just suggested its case should not be overstated. We should be more hesitant about embracing at least the more robust version of strong scepticism, which as we earlier suggested could be played out in two ways. The claim that individuals could never be motivated to care for any common interest at the global level – and hence that the vision of cosmopolitan democrats could simply never be realized – seems much too pessimistic (and certainly this idea is hotly denied by defenders of the idea of global ecological citizenship – on which see below). Indeed, it is a theoretical curiosity that defenders of citizenship at the level of the nation state often make recourse to John Stuart Mill's argument that fellow nationals are united by certain ‘common sympathies’ and that only such sympathies make democracy possible. For Mill himself took the existence of nationalism – which requires us to feel allegiance to what later came to be called an ‘imagined community’ (Anderson 1983) far beyond our everyday experience – as evidence of the possibility of more cosmopolitan sympathies. The ‘love of country’ we often observe can be taken, somewhat paradoxically, to show precisely how it must be possible to ‘nurse into similar strength’ what Mill calls ‘the love of that larger country, the world’ (Mill 1874: 421). We should not make the mistake of assuming shared nationality to be a necessary condition for any commitment to democracy or social justice. The fact that ‘It has been only a half-century, and sometimes less, since all adult nationals were made citizens in liberal democracies’ (Magnette 2005: 184) reminds us what a challenging project democratic citizenship is. But at the same time it reminds us just how historically contingent the connection is between the nation state and democratic participation.
In the end, the more sophisticated arguments for scepticism about global citizenship tend to moderate their claims to admit that, whilst shared identity or nationality is useful for democracy to operate, they are not strictly necessary (see e.g. Miller 1995: 94). As such they would do well to embrace the more plausible form of strong scepticism, which suggests that although it could materialize, any realization of the vision of cosmopolitan democrats is formidably unlikely. Thus Kymlicka 2001: 239) reports that democracy ‘works best when there is some kind of common identity that transcends … conflicting interests’ – but not that it only works at all in the presence of such an identity. Such sceptics also tend to make clear, on closer inspection, that they are not denying the possibility of realizing any form of global citizenship, but are casting doubt on the chances of realizing a deep or meaningful version of it. Miller and Kymlicka, for instance, seem principally concerned to establish that a particular (republican or participatory) conception of citizenship is not going to transpire beyond the boundaries of the nation state (see e.g. Miller 2000: 82). Their concerns express a belief that ‘the memories of a shared – and largely mythical – history, a common language and cultural affinities that unite us and distinguish us from other groups play an essential role. If these conditions are missing, citizenship might not disappear but it would be reduced to its liberal dimension’ (Magnette 2005: 125). This concern does not entitle us to say that Europeans are not co-citizens, for instance, but it does reflect a concern that our experience of citizenship will be, from the perspective of an approach that values civic virtue, solidarity and orientation towards the common good, impoverished. As such perhaps it does not so much reflect a belief that we cannot be global citizens, but rather that we cannot (yet?) be global good citizens. Global membership is plausibly invoked as an aspiration, though its likely depth is not highly estimated. The cosmopolitan democrat could – probably should – accept this conclusion; but he or she will still respond that the solutions advocated by defenders of national citizenship have thus far proved incapable of effectively addressing key global problems. That the cosmopolitan project might be difficult does not mean it is not necessary.
Cosmopolitan Distributive Justice
The emergence of a vibrant literature on global distributive justice has been one of the most striking features within normative political theory over the past few decades. In comparison with a situation towards the end of the twentieth century where theorists of justice were prepared to suggest with very little by way of argument that their theories applied to single societies, conceived as more or less closed systems of social interaction (e.g. Rawls 1972), today's defenders of global distributive justice have turned their sights towards what they see as the many injustices of the contemporary world. They have argued against terms of global cooperation which are skewed in favour of the interests of wealthy states, and against property regimes which deprive many of the world's people of a say over how the resources of their own nations are disposed of. They have called for redistribution to correct an arbitrary distribution of natural resources, for the development of global taxation on currency speculation or resource extraction, with the proceeds being used to eradicate global poverty, and for the equitable distribution of the costs of dealing with climate change. In terms of normative principles, they have either set their sights low and called for the securing of all individuals’ basic needs or human rights (though this would still be a very demanding goal), or have aimed more ambitiously for some kind of egalitarian global principle such as global equality of opportunity.
By contrast, approaches to justice which see the nation state (or something very like it) as the proper focus of accounts of distributive justice (e.g. Rawls 1999) have been roundly criticized for being anachronistic and blinkered. We are now in a situation where individuals can, in many cases, seek to defend their human rights without depending upon their own nation states – or indeed to defend their human rights against their nation state (though the right to appeal directly to an international court against one's government has until now been a prerogative of citizens of the European Union only). The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights of 1948, on this view, marked a break from a world where the sovereignty of nation states was paramount, at least where sovereignty is conceived in terms of more or less total non-interference. Now, the sovereignty of nation states is much more commonly linked (at least rhetorically, if not always in practice) to the protection of the human rights of their members (see Young 2007). We also live in a world, many defenders of global distributive justice tell us, in which it is increasingly recognized that our lives should not go significantly worse simply because of the brute luck of being born into an impoverished as opposed to a wealthy country.
As has been the case within debates on global democracy, proponents of global distributive justice have made frequent recourse to the language of cosmopolitanism in describing their projects (see e.g. Jones 1999; Moellendorf 2002; Pogge 2002; Caney 2005; Brock 2008). Cosmopolitanism, however, has a contested meaning in debates about global distributive justice. Its critics suggest that this contestation masks a good deal of slipperiness. On a weak version it is said to mean, simply, that individuals are what matter, morally, and that they are due equal concern and respect. According to David Miller, this is compatible with a very wide variety of substantive positions; indeed everyone can accept it, ‘barring a few racists and other bigots’ (Miller 2002: 84). This leaves open the possibility that one might argue from a cosmopolitan perspective for a system of strong priority towards one's fellow nationals, which would see very little in the way of global redistribution, so long as one could make an argument for that result which paid proper attention to everyone's moral worth (see e.g. R. Miller 1998 for one such attempt). But most self-proclaimed cosmopolitans tend to use the term to mean something much more demanding, by which some (in the case of ‘moderate cosmopolitanism’) or even all (in the case of the ‘strong’ version) distributive principles should be taken to have global scope (Caney 2002). For the purposes of this chapter we can take distributive cosmopolitanism to imply that there are at least some distributive principles which have global scope; this leaves open the possibility that there might be additional forms of justice distinctively appropriate to the nation state, an issue on which cosmopolitans are divided (see Armstrong 2009).
Given their erstwhile commitments we might suppose that distributive-justice cosmopolitans are likely to also be dedicated to some form of global citizenship. It has certainly been suggested that for the ambitious goals of these cosmopolitans to be realized would require the establishment of a world state. That in turn is usually held to be undesirable, since it would likely either lead to tyranny or to civil war, a fear which gave Immanuel Kant 1795 doubt about the possibility of packing very much content into the cosmopolitan right, and which has continued to worry more recent sceptics about global distributive justice (e.g. Rawls 1999). But actually, leading cosmopolitans have been rather lukewarm about claims regarding the need for either a world state, or any form of global citizenship (cf. Cabrera 2008). Here, the distinction between moral and institutional cosmopolitanism is significant (Beitz 1999b). Moral cosmopolitanism involves the by now familiar claim that we all matter equally, and that the individual is the primary unit of moral concern. It further extends, in the case of cosmopolitans about distributive justice, to the belief that the distribution of at least some goods, can properly be evaluated at the global level according to the standards of distributive justice. But this can be distinguished from institutional cosmopolitanism, which is the view that political or economic institutions should be concentrated at the global level. Those who do subscribe to institutional cosmopolitanism may indeed argue for a world state, but they are in fact few and far between. Moral cosmopolitanism is a claim about the scope of ideals, but does not commit its holders to any particular claim about the proper scope or shape of institutions, and most moral cosmopolitans have taken seriously Kant's fears about the dangers of a world state and renounced it as a viable option (see e.g. Pogge 2002; Caney 2005). Moral cosmopolitans will in fact pursue whatever institutional form will best serve their normative ends, and their moral position does not directly entail any particular position on appropriate institutional forms. As Caney 2005: 159) puts it, simply, ‘Appropriate political institutions are those that best further cosmopolitan goals.’
In practice, the cosmopolitans about distributive justice we have been dealing with tend to embrace a dispersal of sovereignty, rather like that imagined by Held, along with the creation of more effective global regulatory institutions, as the most likely route to the realization of their values. They embrace the creation of stronger global institutions (short of a world state) to maintain global public goods, and to share more equitably the benefits and burdens of global cooperation. Some of them have also argued for various forms of global taxation, with various suggestions for how the income should be collected and then spent – as in the case of Pogge's suggestion of a 1 per cent tax on the extraction of natural resources, with the proceeds being used to bring everyone up over the World Bank's two-dollars-a-day poverty line (Pogge 2002; see also Brock 2008). All of this certainly marks a dissatisfaction with a purely nation state-centric (or ‘Westphalian’) model of international affairs. Thus Thomas Pogge suggests that from the point of view of a cosmopolitan concern for the fundamental needs and interests of human beings, the concentration of sovereignty at the level of nation states is no longer defensible. Instead sovereignty should be ‘widely dispersed’ to both global and local levels (Pogge 2002: 178).
Whether they consider this likely to deliver the status of global citizen for all human beings is a question on which they do not seem to have felt the need to pronounce, and on the whole that step in the argument is conspicuously absent. The need for global institutions is usually emphasized, but the further argument that we will all therefore, if suitably enfranchised, be members of a global political community tends to be left aside. Indeed it might even be said by way of criticism that these theories lack an account of citizenship, of its nature and of the way in which it might be seen as a good for individuals. For a number of cosmopolitans, a dispersed and multi-layered set of institutions appears to be principally important insofar as those institutions would serve the goals of global distributive justice, and it is a moot point whether this account holds much of a place for the idea that participating in self-government itself is an intrinsically important human good, or whether it is merely a good that is instrumentally valuable because, where it is lacking, distributive justice appears harder to achieve (thus Young 2007: 10 argues, somewhat surprisingly, that ‘The primary reason to democratize global institutions and practices … is to increase the chances that these decisions will promote global justice’). In practice, much of this may itself turn on an underlying ambivalence about whether we should attach any intrinsic importance to the self-government of political communities, an importance which will, in a number of quite foreseeable cases, come into conflict with the goals of global distributive justice. Although one distributive justice cosmopolitan has softened his stance on the value to be attached to self-determination (see Beitz 1999a: 191–8), the finer implications of granting value to self-determination remain to be worked out, and this is undoubtedly an issue on which cosmopolitans about distributive justice could profitably devote greater attention. That said, it may be that some cosmopolitans about distributive justice are also cosmopolitans about democracy, and believe the two arguments to have independent weight or even to be mutually reinforcing. Thus Simon Caney broadly supports the arguments of Held and Linklater and argues for multi-level cosmopolitan political institutions, although he wants to revise the rationale for this slightly to make the connection with rights more prominent. The reason why a global democratic political framework is necessary is that we have a right to exercise control over the institutions and processes that affect our ability to exercise our rights (2005: 159). The arguments about democracy and distributive justice tend to dovetail, and the argument that we should be able, as a result, to see ourselves as global citizens is one that Caney would be able to make, were he willing to.
Defenders of global distributive justice, then, tend to have been cosmopolitans about justice, but not (or not explicitly) about citizenship. Although a number of them have endorsed conclusions very similar to those suggested by the democratic version of cosmopolitanism, they have often done so for instrumental reasons, and have not introduced the language of citizenship or political membership. Perhaps they do see an independent role for a more substantial account of political membership; perhaps they have merely concentrated on making the implications of the distributive justice argument clear, whilst also being persuaded, for example, of the cosmopolitan democrat's arguments about citizenship in particular. Whether this is so remains to be seen. But notably those who, like Caney, believe in the argument for global democracy in its own right tend not to have advanced any explicit argument about global citizenship either.
In the meantime, the only prominent cosmopolitan who has made explicit recourse to the idea of global or even transnational citizenship has been Thomas Pogge. He has suggested precisely that the dispersal of sovereignty which he advocates will lead individuals to ‘be citizens of, and govern themselves through, a number of political units of various sizes, without any one political unit being dominant’ (2002: 178). Indeed at one point he goes further than this to suggest that we are already global citizens. For we (and especially citizens of wealthier states) are all morally responsible for the form the global institutional order takes, and in that sense transnational citizenship at least is ‘not a future aspiration, but a present reality’ (2004: 8). Making this argument depends on us moving away from the association of citizenship with legal membership (2004: 2), and connecting it instead with a claim about moral responsibility. On this latter argument we are global (or at least transnational) citizens insofar as we have responsibilities of global or transnational scope. The question this suggests is: does this stretch the concept of citizenship too far? Might we reasonably be said to be global citizens already – in the absence of any meaningful form of global political membership – merely in virtue of the fact that, individually, we have moral or ethical obligations of global scope? We move on to discuss this question further in the next section.
Ethical cosmopolitans suggest, rather as Diogenes is said to have done, that we have rights or responsibilities of universal scope. These might be enjoyed or owed simply in virtue of our status as human beings, or as shared inhabitants of the planet Earth, or perhaps in virtue of the existence of global social relations. One much-debated question in global ethics concerns how much individuals in wealthy states should try to do personally to alleviate global poverty, and how they might legitimately balance such ethical commitments with more particular commitments to their families, for instance. Are we obliged to give to charity until we reach such a point that we incur significant personal costs (as argued by Singer 1972)? Or can we legitimately favour the interests of those close to us, even where the cost to us of giving would be relatively trivial? Should we try to develop globally oriented virtues or dispositions, and learn to think and act as members of a single global community (as suggested by Martha Nussbaum 2002)?
For Luis Cabrera, an ethical cosmopolitan approach is necessary to correct a defect in the arguments for cosmopolitan distributive justice discussed earlier, which is that they tell us too little about how individuals should conduct themselves in an interconnected world, given that the institutional solutions they suggest appear all-too-distant. Given that the world we live in now is an unjust one (by the standards of distributive justice), and given that institutional responses to this have not yet succeeded, what is the individual to do in the meantime? Do we have individual ethical obligations to help establish global institutions? If we believe that the world should move in the direction of greater equality and justice but find that it stubbornly refuses to do so, are we justified in simply holding up our hands and bemoaning that fact, or are we ourselves obliged to do the best that we can to achieve those goals, even if we are relatively sure that others will fall short?
Although we stated at the outset of this chapter that our structure would stay true to the general division of labour between cosmopolitan arguments about democracy, distributive justice and ethics, it seems to me that a note of caution is in order here. The distinction between cosmopolitanisms about distributive justice and about ethics draws inspiration from the idea that, whereas arguments about justice typically concern themselves with institutions, rules and the distributions that emanate from them, ethical theories typically relate to questions about individual conduct, character and dispositions. Nevertheless the division of labour between theories of justice and ethics is rightly controversial, since there is disagreement, for instance, on whether theories of justice should themselves direct individual behaviour.3 Likewise it might be said that, if Pogge is right that there is an individual obligation to help establish and support more effective global institutions, it makes sense to conceive that as an obligation of justice rather than of ethics. It very much remains to be seen, therefore, whether the distinction between cosmopolitanism about ethics and about justice will turn out to be a useful one. What is more likely to be useful is a distinction between reasons (of justice) which give individuals reasons to act simply in their capacity as individuals (such as buying goods or services) and reasons (of justice) which give individuals reasons to act in their capacity as members of institutions or collectives.
In the broader debates on cosmopolitanism, then, it is commonly suggested that a cosmopolitan ethical approach is a crucial addition to an account of cosmopolitan distributive justice, though on my view a distinction between reasons that apply to us as individuals and reasons that apply to us as collectives, or members of institutions, would be rather more to the point. Various positions in environmental and ecological political theory have made much use, recently, of the idea of global ethics or the need for a cosmopolitan ethic, and it will be most helpful if we take that to stand for a commitment to the idea that we have good reasons of justice to act purely as individuals in a way conducive to the goals of global justice. Such arguments largely focus on individual responsibilities to live sustainably; and in particular on the duty of inhabitants of industrialized or industrializing countries to refrain from consuming in a way that, as we now understand, cannot be extended to all, and which, indeed, will already lead to ecological catastrophe if unchecked. Although political policy and institutional innovation will play a role in achieving the goals of environmental sustainability, a change in individual behaviour and attitude is also required. On one view, progress in tackling ecological problems certainly does require a serious response at the level of institutions, and environmental rights, for instance, might properly be enshrined in national constitutions. But we need to supplement such an approach with a focus on the virtues and responsibilities of individuals. If we fail to do so, the focus on formal rights and institutions will not achieve its goals; both projects are necessary for achieving sustainability, and hence are complementary (Dobson 2003: 89). The structure of this view, note, is similar to Cabrera's insofar as it sees a focus on personal obligations as a necessary supplement to an account based on the justice of institutions.
Where does citizenship fit into this picture, though? When we buy organic rather than conventional sugar, or re-insulate our houses, are we in fact acting as ‘ecological citizens’? Recent years have certainly witnessed increasing interest in the ideal of citizenship on the part of green theorists and activists, and some theorists have mobilized the idea of ‘citizenship of planet Earth’ in order to gesture towards a culture of responsibility, personal activism and egalitarian community. For Falk 1994, the language of global or ‘world citizenship’ is an essential tool with which to intervene to ‘redesign political choices’, and transform political behaviour, on the basis of an ecological sense of sustainability. Mapping onto the distinction noted above, Dobson too suggests that we need to add a concern with ‘ecological citizenship’ (focusing on individual obligation and virtue) to a concern with ‘environmental citizenship’ (focusing on rights and institutions).
These ideas are sometimes argued to necessitate a transformation of the ways in which we have traditionally thought about citizenship. An account of ecological citizenship will posit a set of duties or obligations which stretch both into the private sphere (as liberal and republican accounts of citizenship are allegedly unwilling to do), and outside of the borders of the nation state. The most pressing of these obligations is to live within an ‘ecological footprint’ that would be sustainable if everyone else lived by the same standards (Dobson 2003: 88–90). To be sure, Dobson calls his own vision a ‘post-cosmopolitan’ rather than ‘cosmopolitan’ one because rather than working from grand statements of shared humanity, it emphasizes ‘how the patterns and effects of globalization have given rise to a series of material conditions’ (and chiefly mutual ecological impact) by way of which the standards of justice become appropriate (2003: 127). It is relations of systematic injustice that give rise to obligations of citizenship (2003: 132), rather than the mere fact of humanity. Once one oversteps one's legitimate ecological footprint, one owes an obligation of justice towards those others one has thereby wronged; and for Dobson, this obligation is sufficient to give meaning to the idea of ecological citizenship. It should be clear, however, that this distinction overstates the difference between his position and that of cosmopolitans about distributive justice such as Pogge or Moellendorf, for whom obligations of justice also exist in virtue of the existence of social relations, and not simply by virtue of shared humanity.
From the point of view of citizenship, the important point to make here is one that Dobson makes himself: this vision of ecological citizenship ‘is not much concerned with the otherwise crucial issue of membership’ (2003: 117). Dobson believes that deciding to recycle, or buying ozone-friendly products, are acts of ecological citizenship (2003: 103); but in this case, it's a moot point what work the concept of citizenship is actually doing. The concept of community, too, is undergoing some stretching here. Thus the argument holds that the ‘community’ of post-cosmopolitanism is created by obligations of justice, which are themselves triggered by the patterns of mutual impact made possible by globalization (2003: 81).
But this is an odd use of the term community (see also Hayward 2006). If obligations of justice are key in creating the category of ecological citizens, is it only the perpetrators of ecological injustice (who thereby derive obligations to rectify that injustice) who are to be considered part of the community in question, and hence ecological citizens? Are the victims of that injustice not ecological citizens (unless they, too, are acting unjustly) also? If so, those who are ecological citizens owe ecological duties not towards each other, but only towards non-citizens.4 Arguably, the notion of community at work here assumes nothing about any kind of interaction or mutual identification at all. It does assume one specific kind of interaction with non-citizens: the simple fact of causing ecological harm to them. But conceptually at least, it makes no assumptions at all about what unites ecological citizens themselves. We could just as well speak of a community of burglars, all of whom have unjustly burgled homes, but who hardly fit into a community in the conventional sense – although they certainly fit into a social category, and also possess similar obligations (to serve jail terms or pay fines). Moreover, it seems likely that, as our various ecological decisions occur over time (as we decide to give up the family car, or decide that we really do deserve that skiing break after all), we could flit in and out of the status of ecological citizens. This introduces a contingency and unpredictability to the concepts of citizenship and community, which are not usually associated with them. To be sure, we could avoid this problem by saying, instead, that all humans are categorically subject to harming, or to being harmed by our ecological decisions, and hence we could try to derive an argument about the existence of a genuinely shared human community. After all, though an implication of Dobson's argument is that we will not owe duties of ecological citizenship to those who are not affected by our actions of consumption or production, in an age of climate change it seems highly likely that in practice obligations will be owed – at least at certain points – to all of humanity. But to make this move would undermine the distinction between the grand ‘meta-theoretical’ statements about shared humanity which Dobson wants to resist, and the specific description of actual mutual influence which he prefers – a distinction which is key to the opposition between cosmopolitan and post-cosmopolitan conceptions of citizenship.
If we believe citizenship to necessarily involve reference to membership of a community, the suspicion this invokes is that Dobson's arguments are about ethics or justice and not actually about citizenship. It seems likely that ‘we can acknowledge our environmental interconnectedness, and indeed maintain that we have an obligation of justice … to use resources in a sustainable way … without invoking the idea of citizenship at all’ (Mason 2009: 289–90). Certainly it is possible to be a sceptic about global citizenship whilst remaining an ardent supporter of global justice or global ethical responsibilities. Singer 2002, for example, makes no reference to citizenship in his arguments about individuals’ global responsibilities, including those to consume reasonably. The introduction of the language of citizenship is perhaps intended to add greater normative or emotive force to claims about our individual ecological responsibilities, but it is questionable whether it does so in this case. Indeed Dobson, arguably, makes just as little of the concept of citizenship as some distributive justice cosmopolitans. The central argument is not really about membership or community at all – though those categories are introduced as a way of framing the claims of justice. This masks a general lack of theorization of the nature, and the good, of citizenship, and why it might be important to individuals.
There are arguments from other green thinkers for environmental or ecological citizenship which make much more of the connection to community and membership, however (see e.g. Hayward 2006). But it is notable that, in their case, their ambitions for citizenship do not stretch in so cosmopolitan a direction. They tend to argue for the integration of ecological concerns into existing geographical models of citizenship. As such they are presenting an argument not for global citizenship per se, but for what Parekh has called, in another context, ‘globally-oriented’ or ‘worldly’ citizenship: a form of political action, on the domestic or transnational stage, which integrates a proper concern for the impacts our actions will have on those outside of our own political community. On this conception citizenship is national rather than global in form, but good national citizenship itself is understood in such a way that it necessarily involves ‘an active interest in the affairs of other countries’, a concern to avoid the actions of one's own nation damaging the ‘interests of humankind at large’, as well as a commitment to the creation of ‘a just world order’ through the actions of nation states acting in concert to promote justice, democracy and fairness (Parekh 2003: 12–13).
Beyond this, there need be no objection to holding out cosmopolitan ecological citizenship as an aspiration, so long as we are clear that this is what we are doing. There is also much to be commended in statements in defence of cosmopolitanism about justice, whether we have individuals or institutions in mind as our target. The problems arise when some accounts suggest that we are already cosmopolitan citizens simply in virtue of a given set of ethical obligations (see e.g. Dower 2002: 40). There's nothing new in using the claim that we are global citizens to express a claim about universal responsibility or allegiance – indeed that idea is virtually as old as the concept of citizenship itself. Cabrera 2008: 94) suggests that we act as global citizens when, as individuals, we work to put in place just global institutions, or help to secure the fundamental rights of outsiders. But he accepts that we are not formally global citizens, but instead are ‘acting as’ global citizens (2008: 97). In this case, the term ‘acting as if’ would be more appropriate. Though the cosmopolitan case here is commendable, the role that the idea of citizenship plays in it is also less central than in the argument for cosmopolitan democracy.
Future Research Agendas
Struggles for justice and for democracy have had an intimate and long-running connection with the politics of the nation state. Unsurprisingly, the ideal of citizenship has come to play a key critical role, in giving force and shape to various normative aspirations (see Armstrong 2006). As one great analyst of citizenship put it, citizenship has come to represent an ideal ‘against which achievements can be measured and towards which aspirations can be directed’ (Marshall 1950: 29). At the present time, as we have seen in this chapter, calls for both democracy and justice appear to be shaking off their close relationship with the nation state. It is wholly to be expected, given this context, that the concept of citizenship has again served as a vehicle for the aspirations of many defenders of global democracy or global justice. These arguments confirm the great rhetorical power of the ideal of citizenship. Perhaps it can once again serve as an ideal against which achievements can be measured, and aspirations directed, as Marshall put it. It is this belief which sustains the notion of cosmopolitan citizenship.
But as this chapter has made clear, all is not so straightforward. For one thing, it has been shown that there are a number of different conceptions of cosmopolitanism at work, in different contexts. Some of those contexts provide the setting for arguments about the nature of political membership and the scope of democracy, whereas others provide the setting for arguments about how individuals should act justly, either as individuals or as members of communities or collectivities, in an interconnected world (with this distinction turning out to be rather more to the point than the common distinction between cosmopolitanisms about ethics and about justice). It has been shown that their connection to claims about citizenship and community are varied. If we hold firm, as we believe we should, to the claim that citizenship necessarily invokes the idea of citizenship of something – that is that it invokes the idea of membership in a political community – then the notion of global citizenship turns out to have a rather looser connection with cosmopolitan argument than we might expect. The strongest connection seems to hold in the case of cosmopolitan democracy, where political membership does seem to be plausibly, and inextricably, invoked in the argument for global democracy. Theorists of cosmopolitan distributive justice have advanced a number of similar arguments for multi-levelled institutions and indeed for democratic participation in them. But they have often done so rather instrumentally, to the extent that institutions of global democracy could be expected to serve the goals of global distributive justice. In the end the concept of citizenship turns out to play a rather small role in the account of cosmopolitans about distributive justice. We could reach similar conclusions about cosmopolitan accounts which focus on how the individual, acting as an individual, should be charged with acting to bring about justice. Here the connection between arguments for ecological responsibility which are fundamentally rooted in claims about the scope and nature of justice, and the categories of community, membership and citizenship, is somewhat tenuous.
We can see, then, that cosmopolitans of various stripes continue to face serious challenges, which should influence the direction of future research. For cosmopolitan democrats, the challenges are formidable. They could usefully respond to doubts about the feasibility of their goals by identifying short and medium-term steps which would represent progress towards globalizing democracy. In identifying such progress they are likely to rely on emerging forms of transnational political participation which are both formal and state-sponsored (see Chapter Two), and also informal and oppositional (see Chapter Three). Though neither yet provides evidence for the existence of global citizenship, they do provide evidence for where we might expect progress towards that ideal be made, and help us to identify the opportunities and pitfalls implicit in such projects. In terms of longer-term goals – the development of genuinely participatory global institutions, and the organized devolution of political power away from the state – cosmopolitan democrats need to take seriously the likely transaction costs of such moves. They also need to respond to criticisms which suggest that they have thus far offered a limited and rather implausible account of the transition towards global democratization (Gamble 2000).
Cosmopolitans about distributive justice and individual responsibility need to work to make more clear the implications of their arguments for political membership. Membership, on one account, is the first and most important good which political communities distribute (Walzer 1983: 31). But it might be said, provocatively, that whereas theorists such as Rawls simply assumed that political membership would coincide neatly with the borders of the state, a number of cosmopolitan theorists appear to have neglected to theorize membership at all. Even amongst those who have, the precise relationship between cosmopolitan commitments in the domains of distributive justice and democracy could usefully be made more explicit. Though the connection between cosmopolitanism and global citizenship is now becoming more clear, we should not imagine that all of the necessary arguments have already been made, or that all of the obstacles have yet been identified.
Prospects for Citizenship - Notes and Bibliography:
1. In a cosmopolitan world, it is often said that ‘Each citizen of a state will have to learn to become a “cosmopolitan citizen” as well; that is, a person capable of mediating between national traditions and alternative forms of life’ (Held 2002: 107; see also Linklater 1998: 181). Insofar as this argument targets the virtues or dispositions of individual citizens, we may be moving closer to the kind of ethical cosmopolitan claims which are discussed in a later section of this chapter.
2. Estlund 2008: Chapter 14) draws a useful distinction between the claim that something will not happen, and the distinct claim that it is strictly impossible. The former claim is likely to be the more appropriate claim in many political contexts: we might say, for instance, that while it is not strictly impossible for all Parliamentarians to hand in honest expense claims, this is not something we should expect to happen, and not an assumption we should build our institutions around. On my understanding, the doubts about cosmopolitan democracy under review here are of this type: people might in principle be capable of developing the affiliations and capacities required by cosmopolitan democrats, but we should not pin our hopes on (and design our institutions around) such a prospect.
3. In debates about distributive justice, for instance, Rawls 1972) was clear that the basic structure of society ought to be the ‘target’ of principles of distributive justice such as equality, whereas critics such as Cohen 2000 have maintained that such principles must also be taken to apply to individual decisions and behaviour – in which case a distinction between ethics and justice appears less germane.
4. A full account of the demarcation between who is and is not to be seen as an ecological citizen was rather lacking in Dobson's original account (Dobson 2003), but things do become a little more clear in his later response to criticism from Hayward (see Dobson 2006; Hayward 2006). Dobson acknowledges there that only those in ‘ecological space debt’ have ecological obligations, but that those we owe that debt to might still be thought of as ecological citizens ‘to a degree’ (2006: 449). It is still not wholly clear why, though, and he continues to rebuff questions about ‘eligibility’ to citizenship.