Prof. Cyrus Patell at NYU on Cosmopolitanism

Featuring discussions of cosmopolitanism and deliberative democracy; Raymond Williams’s model of dominant, residual, and emergent cultures; Puritanism and Jeffersonianism; the horizon of expectations and the aesthetics of reception; canonization; ideology; and American Exceptionalism.

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Kwame Anthony Appiah: My Cosmopolitanism

Recorded at the New York Societ Library on Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 6:30 PM.

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Google labs: cosmopolitanism vs. nationalism

Google Labs Books Ngram Viewer

Graph these case-sensitive comma-separated phrases:
between and from the corpus American English British English Chinese (simplified) English English Fiction English One Million French German Russian Spanish with smoothing of 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 20 30 40 50 .

Search in Google Books:

1800 – 1895 1896 – 1910 1911 – 1920 1921 – 1991 1992 – 2000 cosmopolitanism
1800 – 1931 1932 – 1964 1965 – 1970 1971 – 1993 1994 – 2000 nationalism

Run your own experiment! Raw data is available for download here.

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Kwame Anthony Appiah: Ethics in a world of Strangers

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Mary Kaldor: US military vs. cosmopolitanism

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Kwame Anthony Appiah: Dubois and Cosmopolitanism

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The Kantian Project of Cosmopolitan Law – Jürgen Habermas

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Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism

I wrote a seminar paper at the European University Institute for the seminar “Nationalism in Theory and Practice” with Profs. Rainer Bauböck and Michael Keating. Since it received an excellent review I publish it here. You can find it on my academia.edu webpage: http://eui.academia.edu/FrankEjbyPoulsen/Papers/138682/Cosmopolitanism-and-Nationalism.

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Apply to the European University Institute Doctoral Programme

Every year, 160 research grants are awarded by the EU Member States and other European national authorities to successful candidates. The deadline is 30 January 2010.

More information here: http://www.eui.eu/ProgrammesandFellowships/DoctoralProgramme/Index.aspx

Why Choose the EUI

The European University Institute (EUI) in Florence offers one of the world’s largest and most distinguished graduate and postgraduate programmes in the social sciences.

Its Departments of Economics, History and Civilization, Law, and Political and Social Sciences, with their researchers, fellows, faculty and visitors, constitute an international research environment with a community of scholars drawn from over fifty countries in Europe and beyond.

The EUI is home to the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies|, an interdisciplinary policy research centre working on issues of European integration and European society.

It is also home to the Max Weber Programme for Postdoctoral Studies|, a programme for your academics starting out on a professional career and who wish to develop their research and teaching skills.

Research is supported by a first-class Library| which collection consists of over 3000 print journals, over 8000 full-text electronic journals, and approximately half a million volumes in economics, history, law, and political and social sciences.

The EUI hosts the Historical Archives of the European Union| with its unique collection of fonds released under the thirty-years’ rule.

From admission through to completion of the four-year funded| doctoral programme, the EUI offers its researchers excellent academic resources in an environment that is as dynamic as it is diverse.

The EUI ranked amongst the best according to the CHE ExcellenceRanking 2009

CHE EcellenceRanking 2009

The Department of Political and Social Sciences has distinguished itself for its international character and the optimal results obtained in its research.

The complete results of the survey| have been published in the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit.

The criteria for the selection by the Center for Higher Education Development are the high numbers of publications and citations, “highly cited books” as research indicators, student mobility, teaching staff mobility, and the number of projects in the Marie Curie research promotion programme of the EU.

What is special about the CHE ExcellenceRanking? It defines “stars” rather than ranking positions.  It is about detailed analysis rather than general ranking. The results of the research are deliberately not added together to give a total number of points.

The reason for this is that there is simply no “best” higher education institution, either for a single discipline, let alone for all disciplines. The ranking is intended for all students/researchers planning to earn a master or doctoral degree and who are looking for a suitable institution for their research.

For more information visit the CHE ranking

http://www.eui.eu/News/2009/11-04CHEExcellenceRanking2009.aspx

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Que s’est-il passé en 1989 en Europe de l’Est ?

Comme le temps court ! Tenez, ce banc ! Il a l’air immobile… eh bien, pas du tout, il charge ! Il court à bride abattue ! Il fonce… vers où… vers quoi ?… Quel but ? Quel sens ?

Witold Gombrowicz, Opérette.

Que s’est-il passé en 1989 en Europe de l’Est ?


« Rien ». Le mot figurait dans le carnet de notes de Louis XVI à la date du 14 juillet 1789. L’anecdote est connue, mais son intérêt sans doute moins. Il s’agissait en fait de son journal de chasse. Or ce jour là il n’avait tout simplement rien pris. En soi cette anecdote pourrait n’être qu’anecdote et rester dans la petite histoire. Cela n’expliquerait pas pourquoi elle est si connue et figure dans le dictionnaire des citations et mots historiques1. Elle éclaire la façon dont on peut choisir de regarder les événements, et surtout que l’événement n’existe que parce que l’on ne peut en faire récit que plus tard. Ainsi cette conversation célèbre ne peut être qu’apocryphe : « C’est une révolte ? Non Sire, c’est une révolution2 ! » Cela parce que le terme de révolution comme son nom l’indique suppose l’accomplissement d’un cycle et le début d’un nouveau, et donc la conscience d’une révolution. Or, on ne peut en avoir conscience qu’une fois un laps de temps passé, laps nécessaire pour la mise en cohérence, pour que l’on donne du sens à l’événement.

Sens et temps ont parti lié et Prigogine le note bien : « toute histoire, toute narration implique des événements […] mais elle n’a d’intérêt que si ces événements sont porteurs de sens3. » L’Histoire est une mise en sens d’une série d’événements ou de faits. A partir de là, le problème est de trouver une méthode permettant une mise en forme de cette histoire qui sinon n’est que ce que Mac Beth frissonne sentant la fin de la sienne proche : « a tale told by an idiot, full of sounds and fury, signifying nothing. » Et cependant, les façons d’y mettre du sens sont objet de débats et controverses. Il y a deux grandes familles de mise en cohérence que sont les philosophies de l’Histoire d’une part, qui entendent expliquer à partir d’un moteur historique tout événement, et les méthodes d’analyse d’autres part, qui se séparent entre analyse linéaire et analyse ponctuelle.

Les philosophies de l’Histoire regroupe principalement Hegel puis Marx, qui entendait remettre ce dernier sur ses pieds. On peut les renvoyer dos à dos dans leur méthode qui est la même, alors que les conclusions divergent. Ce sont là non plus des méthodes scientifiques pour comprendre l’Histoire, mais ce que Raymond Aron considère comme la déviation inévitable d’un sociologue qui, analysant à ce niveau de façon scientifique la structure du capitalisme, en est conduit à prendre position politiquement et à déduire à partir de ces résultats une interprétation économique de l’histoire prédisant la chute du capitalisme de ses propres contradictions, finalement comme d’autres ont prédit la chute de la station Mir sur Paris4. Bref du structuralisme. Ces visions d’une dialectique dans l’Histoire se disqualifient par les leçons de l’Histoire elle-même et les zélotes de Marx qui n’ont pas toujours lu ou qui par leurs interprétations sont les réels inventeurs du « marxisme ». Ainsi Czesław Miłosz exprime les déviances que l’idéologie a pu produire entre praxis et physis dans son poème « Enfant d’Europe » :

Laisse tes lèvres, énonçant l’hypothèse,

ignorer que la main falsifie l’expérience.

Laisse tes mains falsifiant l’expérience,

ignorer que les lèvres énoncent une hypothèse.

Apprend à prédire l’incendie avec une précision sans faille.

Puis incendie la maison pour accomplir l’oracle5.

Une interprétation comme celle de Francis Fukuyama ne semble pas non plus tenable puisqu’elle emprunte la même illusion qu’il puisse exister un moteur de l’Histoire et que ce moteur soit la démocratie. Nietszche en grand moralisateur semble plus sage même si plus déprimant intellectuellement dans ses Inactuelles : « Cette belle histoire universelle est, pour parler comme Héraclite, un tas d’ordures en vrac.  Qu’on ose alors regarder l’homme comme un incertain hasard […]. » La question de l’existence d’une méta-Histoire revient à se poser des questions existentielles, et donc de la place de l’Homme su terre et dans l’Univers. « Pourquoi y a-t-il quelque chose plutôt que rien ? » Nietszche l’a bien vu qui rattache ces préoccupations sur le sens de l’Histoire aux préoccupations métaphysiques sur le sens de l’humanité, et renvoie donc à son « Dieu est mort, l’Homme l’a tué ». Par conséquent, chercher un sens à l’Histoire générale de l’Humanité relève de l’idéologie. Derrière le pourquoi, il y a un besoin de sens : dans quel but sommes-nous là ? Derrière ces interprétations téléologiques de l’Histoire, il y a comme en subconscient la nécessité chrétienne d’inscrire l’Homme dans un sens. On peut noter avec Martin Malia que Marx et Hegel (dont Marx a formé sa théorie à partir de sa critique de la philosophie du droit) sont des philosophes allemands6 et qu’en terre de luthéranisme se cache derrière la téléologie la théologie, et derrière la méta-Histoire la métaphysique. Une des réponses de scientifiques, astrophysiciens et cosmologues, sur le pourquoi de l’existence humaine dans l’univers est de dire sous forme de boutade que sinon nous ne pourrions pas dire que l’univers existe. La question du pourquoi n’est plus du domaine des philosophes, à qui il ne resterait selon Wittgenstein que l’étude du langage, mais des scientifiques 7.

1989 marque avec la chute du communisme, la fin des « grandes narrations », la fin des téléologies interprétatives de l’Histoire. S’il est une chose dont on peut affirmer dès l’introduction sans erreur que 1989 a produit, c’est bien que le communisme en tant que projet historique s’est effondré. Le communisme projet politique semble lui renaître dans le monde post-communiste. Pourtant certains auteurs, ne semblent pas comprendre cette fin et utilisent paradoxalement l’analyse idéologique pour rendre compte du communisme8.

Mis à part les versions téléologiques pour comprendre l’Histoire, il y a les analyses de l’Histoire qui se situent elles à partir des faits eux-mêmes et non à partir d’une théorie. Deux traditions peuvent s’affronter entre les tenants du récit historique long et ceux de l’événement. Ainsi peut-on voir Fernand Braudel contre Paul Ricœur avancer leurs théories9. L’explication linéaire v. l’explication par l’événement. A ce titre il faut voir la définition de l’évolution que donne Prigogine qui doit réunir trois éléments : distinction d’un Avant et d’un Après ; irréversibilité ; mise en cohérence. 1989 est-il à ce titre un événement-évolution ? Si l’on regarde les faits seuls, il est difficile de répondre. L’Après ressemble à l’Avant en certains points. L’irréversibilité semble acquise mais les anciens partis communistes regagnent un poids électoral. La mise en cohérence est un des sujets les plus prisés des chercheurs que ce soit en philosophie, Histoire, géopolitique, etc. C’est toutefois dans l’imaginaire un événement voire l’Événement. 1989 marque la chute de la bipolarité, de l’antagonisme Est/Ouest, d’un système totalitaire qui se fendait déjà. Dans l’imaginaire il y a bien un Avant et un Après, une irréversibilité, et la mise en cohérence est la pression des marchés conjuguée avec la puissance du message démocratique10.

Comprendre l’Événement 1989 est difficile parce que les réponses sont multiples. La simple utilisation de la causalité ne suffit plus. Des pré-événements s’enchaînent et se répondent. Des pré-événements à la surface produisent des effets souterrains qui eux-mêmes produisent de nouveaux pré-événements. Zaki Laïdi utilise les concepts d’événement et de résonance des événements entre eux, empruntant à Deleuze la formule11. Par ailleurs, 1989 doit être vu sous l’angle de la phénoménologie pour être bien compris.

Alors à partir de ces théories que s’est-il passé en 1989 en Europe de l’Est ? Les spécialistes donnent des réponses multiples, et il paraît difficile de trancher. L’objet n’est pas de trouver une réponse mais de se demander quelles sont les questions qu’il faut se poser. Après un peu plus de dix ans il est en effet encore trop tôt pour se prononcer. Quelles sont les conséquences de 1789 ? Une boutade veut qu’il soit encore trop tôt au XXIème siècle pour y répondre. Un événement se détermine aussi à partir de ses conséquences. Ainsi il faut voir l’après 1989 pour comprendre ce qui s’est passé en 1989. D’autre part, il faut voir l’Avant 1989 pour comprendre ce qui s’est passé en 1989. Comme nous l’avons vu, il faut aussi voir l’analyse choisie pour vérifier ces Avant et Après événements. Aussi les réponses peuvent-elles varier. Elles varient aussi en fonction de l’objet que l’on choisit d’analyser. Ainsi peut-on dire que 1989 marque la naissance de « l’autre Europe » ou peut-on dire que 1989 est une révolution ou une réforme ?

  1. 1989, la conséquence de quoi ?

Tout événement est l’enchaînement de pré-événements. Par ailleurs, François Fejtö relève que « vue rétrospectivement, l’évolution de ces dix dernières années revêt à la fois une dimension globale et une dimension spécifique à chacune des démocraties populaires12 ». Ce qu’il appelle la dimension globale peut s’apparenter en langage marxiste à la superstructure, à son délabrement, ce qu’il appelle « les pathologies du socialisme réel ».

Comment expliquer en effet ce qu’il s’est passé, id est un événement identique, dans des pays différents ? Ce qui est surprenant avec 1989 c’est que tous les pays d’Europe de l’Est soient sortis ensemble du communisme. Chacune des démocraties populaires a rejeté le communisme pour embrasser la démocratie et le marché. Pourtant les modèles sont divers. On parle des « modèles de sortie du communisme » en science historique. Pour expliquer l’unicité de temps et de lieu de cette tragi-comédie, il est nécessaire de faire appel à la théorie. Une superstructure identique fragile, des pré-événements souterrains expliquent les événements de surface en ex-Europe de l’Est. Pour expliquer la diversité des sorties du communisme on peut employer la théorie des dominos à l’autre camp13.

1.1. Des pré-événements souterrains identiques.

1.1.1. Economie désastreuse sans espoir de réforme, et phénomène de « décapitalisation ».

L’économie des démocraties populaires, et de l’URSS en général, est typiquement un événement souterrain parce que les données étaient cachées. Seuls quelques-uns très haut placés dans la nomenklatura connaissaient les chiffres réels de l’économie soviétique. A l’Ouest, il existait tout particulièrement aux Etats-Unis des instituts de « kremlinologie » chargés entre autre de deviner ou plutôt de reconstruire comme un puzzle l’économie générale de l’Est, à partir de maigres données14. Mais même si l’on considérait l’économie soviétique malade, les estimations étaient très au-dessus de la réalité, et l’on continuait à craindre l’URSS. Est-ce que l’assaut final qu’a constitué la « guerre des étoiles » aurait eu lieu si l’état de délabrement économique eut été connu ? Peut-être les Etats-Unis auraient simplement attendu et n’auraient pas engagé des dépenses si gigantesques en matière d’armement.

Les taux de croissance sont proches de zéro dans les années 1980, et si les économies ne s’effondrent pas à cause de leur endettement, qui atteint des records par ailleurs, c’est grâce à l’aide financière occidentale. Le pire semble être la Pologne. Certainement, la crise endémique peut expliquer le soulèvement, et pourquoi tout est parti de Pologne avec la création de Solidarność en 1981, puis d’autres grèves à Gdansk en 1988. « L’homme de fer » remplace « l’homme de marbre » dans un pays d’argile. « La détérioration a miné l’Etat-providence, jadis principal motif de fierté : vous ne disposez peut-être pas de toutes les libertés de l’Ouest, disait-il en substance, mais vous bénéficiez de la sécurité de l’emploi, des services sociaux, des logements gratuits et des soins gratuits15 ». Bien entendu si tout cela n’est plus possible, pourquoi continuer à supporter un tel régime ? Mais cela n’explique pas pourquoi le même effondrement a eu lieu dans des pays où l’économie était meilleure comme la RDA et la Hongrie (connue médiatiquement comme le « communisme de goulash », mais la RDA avait en fait une meilleure économie16). Il faut donc analyser d’autres pré-événements.

Même lorsque l’économie n’est pas trop mauvaise, le niveau social est déplorable. Ainsi en Hongrie où le nombre d’heures de travail est le plus élevé, le taux d’alcoolémie et de suicide est très élevé17. Par delà les données pures de l’économie il y a les problèmes sociaux qu’une société totalitaire engendre, et qui ont une répercussion sur le niveau de production. De plus, l’absence de compétitivité semble avoir démobiliser les travailleurs qui quoiqu’ils fassent seront payés. C’est ce que Ilios Yannakakis appelle la « décapitalisation » de la société due au système non-économique de production socialiste18. Il s’agit d’un processus social de découragement et d’inappétence à quoi que ce soit provoqué par la société totalitaire et par l’absurdité des conditions de travail. Elle provoque l’absence de création de valeur, connaissance, savoir-faire, information. Les gens ne travaillent pas, voire sont ivres sur leur lieu de travail.

Il y a par ailleurs, malgré une économie meilleure que dans d’autres démocraties populaires, un degré de perte de fierté nationale pour un tchèque par exemple, parce qu’ « il y a quarante ans, il s’en sortait mieux que ses voisins allemands ou autrichiens, ou faisait au moins jeu égal avec eux19 ».

Si la RDA avait les meilleures statistiques (la blague disait que les allemands étaient ainsi qu’ils pouvaient faire marcher n’importe quoi, y compris le communisme) par rapport aux autres pays, la situation était tout de même pire que ce qu’avançaient les chiffres officiels20. Cela relevait de l’idéologie allemande de faire mieux que son frère germanique « Wessis ». La contestation sociale était bien là d’autant que le voisin immédiat marchait visiblement mieux.

Par conséquent même les bons chiffres sont trompeurs, la situation était mauvaise économiquement dans tous les pays de l’Est et a provoqué des tensions sociales. Ces tensions sociales ne pouvaient plus être calmées après 40 ans d’annonces de réformes. On ne croyait plus à la capacité du système de se réformer pour améliorer la situation économique. C’est pourquoi en Pologne et en Hongrie l’opposition revendique la participation au changement que le PC considère comme nécessaire. Le modèle des « tables rondes » fait accéder l’opposition au pouvoir. Comme l’a montré Martin Malia, les réformes ne pouvaient jamais être menées jusqu’au bout en raison de l’instabilité politique qu’elle provoquerait. Malia avait prévu que le système communiste ne pouvait se réformer et s’il le faisait, se détruirait de lui-même21.

Il faut noter au surplus, que les économistes savaient depuis trente ans, que toute réforme économique devait s’accompagner d’une réforme politique. Tous les projets de réformes ont échoué au niveau de la nomenklatura22. Cela pour la simple raison que les fonctionnaires de la nomenklatura disposaient d’un pouvoir qu’ils usaient et n’étaient pas prêts de lâcher. Même si les politiques s’orientent vers l’option du marché, la décentralisation qui en est la conséquence ne peut pas être lise en place à cause de ceux que l’on peut appeler en termes foucaldiens les « petits chefs ». Cela explique pour une part les demandes de réforme politique accompagnant les réformes économiques. Ainsi la Charte 77 en Tchécoslovaquie qui réclame des réformes politiques sur les droits de l’Homme, et le KOR (« Comité de défense des travailleurs », devenu « Comité d’autodéfense sociale » en gardant le sigle Komitet Obrony Robotnikov) en Pologne.

1.1.2. Le relâchement de Moscou.

Mikhaïl Gorbatchev avait engagé les réformes rendues nécessaires par le coma dans lequel étaient plongés les pays communistes. La dialectique réforme/conservatisme est aussi vieille que la Révolution de 1917. Elle date déjà de l’affrontement Trotsky/Boukharine. Elle se maintiendra tout au long de l’histoire soviétique23.

La politique nouvelle de Gorbatchev vis-à-vis de l’Europe de l’Est en fait partie, mais elle était très floue. Il était difficile de lire les intentions du programme de la perestroïka, mais il est possible de parler d’un rejet de la doctrine stalino-brejnevienne de « souveraineté limitée » ou « devoir internationaliste » au profit de « l’octroi d’une plus large autonomie24 » à partir de 1987. D’abord par allusions vagues, puis plus clairement, jusqu’à ce qu’il ne soit plus possible de revenir en arrière. Gorbatchev sentait qu’il fallait faire des réformes. Il était certes un pur produit apparatchik du parti, et en tant que tel, sa politique était essentiellement de louvoyer entre les deux courants conservateur/réformiste du parti. Mais pour mener à bien toute réforme, il faut nécessairement être centriste25.

En raison des graves problèmes économiques accélérés par la course aux armements relancée par Reagan, Moscou ne pouvait plus suivre en Europe de l’Est. Pour faire face à la montée des contestations sociales qui ne peuvent manquer de s’ensuivre Moscou est obligé de laisser les démocraties populaires se débrouiller. Par ailleurs, Moscou avait appris des crises antérieures : « l’efficacité de la “restauration de l’ordre”, découvrit-on à Moscou, était proportionnelle au degré de délégation26 ». Moscou délégua donc, et c’est ce qui explique la diversité des situations dans la rupture avec le communisme : « les dimensions particulières viennent de l’obligation de régler les difficultés du régime sans avoir recours à l’aide soviétique27 ». C’est aussi ce qui explique l’effondrement, parce que sans l’intervention des troupes soviétiques la répression est plus difficile. D’abord parce que les propres troupes d’un pays ont sans doute plus de réticences à réprimer leurs compatriotes d’autant que ceux-ci son nombreux, et que les militaires souffrent aussi des mêmes privations que contestent les manifestants. Ensuite, parce que cela montre un relâchement de Moscou quant à la volonté de répression et encourage à continuer plus avant la contestation.

1.1.3. Des événements extérieurs.

Avec l’arrivée de Reagan au pouvoir et les déclarations où il compare l’URSS à « l’empire du mal » et lance donc une « guerre des étoiles » sans Jedi, s’ensuit une accélération de la compétition en matière d’armement que l’économie soviétique ne peut cette fois plus suivre. Cela est important pour l’Europe de l’Est. Les révoltes de 1956, 1968 ont provoqué une relation spéciale entre l’URSS et l’Europe de l’Est, l’URSS achetant la tranquillité politique par une relative prospérité économique (du moins Moscou a favorisé la consommation au détriment de l’investissement, ce qui explique un relatif mieux être économique, mais un retard pris sur le développement qui finit par provoquer la crise économique comme nous l’avons vu dans le point précédent pour la Tchécoslovaquie). L’URSS exportait massivement vers l’Europe de l’Est. L’URSS ne peut plus suivre, et l’économie se dégrade dans ses pays.

La Charte d’Helsinki a donné aux contestataires une référence légale pour invoquer le respect des Droits de l’Homme dans les pays de l’Est. Plus qu’une légitimité que les autorités peuvent contester avec des réfutations philosophiques et idéologiques concernant l’application des droits de l’Homme, la Charte a donné une légalité aux revendications. Elle a été transposée en droit interne tchécoslovaque par la « loi n° 10 »28. Par conséquent les autorités n’avaient le choix qu’entre accepter le dialogue avec les dissidents mais alors perdre un certain degré de contrôle sur l’information et la vie sociale, et réprimer mais alors violer ouvertement des engagements internationaux. Les dissidents ont ainsi bénéficier de soutien des pays occidentaux et de publicité internationale. L’accord avait toutefois été critiqué, jugé comme un jeu de dupe au détriment de l’occident qui avait entériné l’ordre de Yalta. Cela privait les contestataires de l’Est de la légitimité des peuples à disposer d’eux-mêmes. Cependant la stratégie de légalité de la contestation a été plus fructueuse.

La communauté internationale a joué un rôle de pression enfin, timide mais plus marqué à la fin de l’année 1989.

1.1.4. Le rôle des intellectuels.

Dans une société où la vie culturelle et intellectuelle est dominée par la volonté du parti, le mensonge, la vérité officielle deviennent rapidement vérité pour le peuple. Ainsi, l’« homo sovieticus » peut se réaliser. La société actuelle en Russie est toujours sous le joug du mensonge officiel parce qu’aucun intellectuel ne s’est levé contre le mensonge officiel. En Europe centrale, les intellectuels se sont retournés contre le pouvoir qui leur imposait des mensonges qu’ils ne pouvaient plus tenir. Pas de face bien sûr, mais à travers le « ketman » qu’évoque Czesław Miłosz dans la pensée captive, c’est à dire le dédoublement du discours. Ainsi chaque œuvre de fiction devient réalité plus réelle que les journaux, grâce au double message que cache chaque texte29. Un art subtil et important existait en Europe centrale ; les « enfants de Kafka » ont développé leur culture propre.

Cela est particulièrement important, d’autant que la forte société civile comprend vite que seule les pages des sports des journaux sont intéressantes parce qu’elles seules ne sont pas mensongères. La vie culturelle non gangrenée par le parti est un souffle de liberté pour beaucoup de gens. De ce fait, « en Tchécoslovaquie, même les gens peu instruits comprennent mieux Kafka que la majorité des lecteurs occidentaux30. » Même en dehors du cadre officiel où le langage se dédouble, il existait un cadre officieux libre de toute censure où les artistes pouvaient s’exprimer. Le samizdat était très répandu.

Pour que le communisme s’effondre en Europe centrale, il faut qu’il n’ait plus de fondement idéologique tenable. Pour cela, il faut que les intellectuels le discréditent. C’est ce qui s’est passé à partir de 1968. Auparavant, les intellectuels étaient communistes parce qu’ils rêvaient au lendemain de la seconde guerre mondiale de changer le monde. Puis il y eut la vague du révisionnisme et finalement, le parti se débarrassa des intellectuels qui n’étaient plus utiles pour enraciner la pensée du parti. Le communisme devenait la routine, comme lorsque l’on va à la messe par habitude sans plus se demander pourquoi. « Le résultat de l’échec du “révisionnisme” et du divorce entre le parti et les intellectuels fut l’écroulement du marxisme en Europe centrale31. » Les intellectuels durent alors faire face à la censure parce qu’ils n’étaient plus en phase avec la voie officielle. Ce sont ainsi les mêmes milieux politisés par le régime qui paradoxalement garderont ce rôle dans l’opposition au régime32.

L’intellectuel a un rôle important parce qu’il guide l’opinion publique qui l’écoute en raison de son statut d’intellectuel. C’est d’ailleurs en ce sens qu’il faut comprendre le terme d’intellectuel, qui est né au XIXème siècle. Avant il y avait certes Voltaire par exemple, mais c’est avec Zola que se forge la tradition de l’intellectuel moderne, c’est à dire de l’homme connu et réputé pour son travail intellectuel (artistique ou scientifique) et qui s’appuie sur ce prestige pour servir une idée ou un idéal33. Ainsi, l’émergence du mouvement « Charte 77 » regroupant des intellectuels au service de la défense des droits de l’Homme est l’illustration de ce rôle lorsque l’on voit les slogans sur les droits de l’Homme accompagner les mouvements de protestation ou de grève.

Avec le rôle des intellectuels, il faut entrecroiser le rôle de la société civile et de l’Eglise. Les intellectuels n’auraient pas un grand écho sans une société civile un tant soit peu constituée, et l’Eglise a permis une diffusion plus large de la vie intellectuelle dans la population grâce à son statut légal.

1.1.5. La forte société civile.

La société civile a joué un rôle également important. En Russie, ce n’est pas le peuple qui s’est révolté parce que la société civile y est moins importante sinon inexistante. Cela tient à ce que la révolution soviétique a coupé court au développement possible de la société civile déjà limitée par le tsarisme34. En Europe centrale en revanche, l’histoire a justement créé une société civile, d’autant plus forte que les sociétés pionnières de la chute du communisme ont été dominées par une puissance étrangère et n’ont survécu que par la culture. Le romantisme a joué un rôle important de continuation de la nation à travers la culture plutôt que les institutions. Au plus profond de la mentalité de la société civile il y a la résistance intellectuelle à toute occupation, que ce soit par résistance intellectuelle comme un Witkiewicz (L’inassouvissement) ou Miłosz (La pensée captive), soit par l’indolence imbécile du zèle « chvéïkiste » (Le brave soldat Chvéïk de Jaroslav Hašek).

Cette prégnance de la société civile s’explique par l’Histoire de ces pays placés entre trois civilisations (orthodoxe, islamique, occidentale) qui ont toujours cherchées à s’en emparer. Ainsi, « malgré leur disparition politique, leur identité s’est maintenue grâce à la culture au sens large : les œuvres littéraires, mais aussi les symboles et les rites d’une vivacité étonnante35. » Alors après mille ans d’Histoire jalonnée de conquêtes et reconquêtes, ce ne sont pas quarante ans de communisme qui réussirent à détruire cette identité politique par la culture et non par les institutions.

Il faut cependant relativiser selon les situations. En Hongrie, la situation économique relativement bonne a provoqué une atomisation de la société civile36. Cependant, si l’intellectuel joue alors un rôle moindre sur une société atomisée, la naissance d’un « bourgeois-citoyen » permet l’émergence d’un individualisme revendicateur de droits.

1.1.6. Le rôle de l’Eglise.

L’Eglise a joué un rôle important particulièrement en Pologne. Adam Michnik a joué un rôle dans cette union de l’Eglise et l’opposition avec la publication de son ouvrage L’Eglise, la gauche et le dialogue, en 197037. Ce rôle était possible parce que l’Eglise était située « aux franges de la dissidence et de la bureaucratie »38. Elle a ainsi pu favoriser des événements intellectuels et la diffusion des idées. Des hommes de toutes tendances se réunissaient sous son aile.

L’Eglise joue par ailleurs un rôle complémentaire des intellectuels ainsi que le note Adam Michnik : « nous autres, intellectuels polonais éhontés, nous vivons entre la prière du cardinal Wyszynski et la raillerie de Gombrowicz, entre la vérité du prélat et celle du bouffon39. »

Cela a été possible grâce à un assouplissement de la politique des cultes, et l’engagement du Vatican, surtout à partir de l’accession de Karol Józef Wojtyła au Saint-Siège. C’est devant la foi populaire et le fait que l’Eglise y ait un statut particulier d’identification nationale et populaire que les autorités communistes ont du admettre la réalité au détriment de l’idéologie athée. Le cardinal Wyszynski semble avoir été populaire en raison du modèle de comportement qu’il prônait à l’opposé du modèle communiste40. La « décapitalisation » semble avoir créée une déréliction sociale qu’une institution prônant un comportement droit pouvait exploiter pour s’immiscer comme autorité morale et intellectuelle dans la société civile.

En Tchécoslovaquie et en Hongrie, l’Eglise catholique a également joué un rôle mais moindre ou plus tardif. En RDA, l’Eglise protestante s’est réveillée avec l’agitation sociale à partir de 1987. Les Eglises orthodoxes de Roumanie, Bulgarie et Serbie sont sortis de l’obéissance à la fin des années 198041.

Tous ces pré-événements sont souterrains et forment un cadre commun à l’Événement de 1989. Ils présagent une situation, mais cela n’explique pas pourquoi les régimes se sont écroulés partout, et si vite dans les sociétés où pourtant le pouvoir était le plus sévère. Les pré-événements de surfaces ont décidé scellés

1.2. Des pré-événements de surface différents.

Il faut à présent examiner les pré-événements tels qu’ils se sont produits pour comprendre l’Événement. Les pré-événements de surface sont les stimuli déclencheurs comme une sorte de domino, mais dont les dominos se répondent entre eux. On pourrait parler, en empruntant à la mécanique quantique, de dualité de propriété onde/particule. Chaque « fait-particule » si on l’observe se comporte comme une onde résonnant avec d’autres pour produire un schéma ondulatoire. On peut noter que la Pologne et la Hongrie ont marqué l’exemple pour les autres pays, la Hongrie ayant entraînée directement dans son sillage la Tchécoslovaquie et la RDA. Ce sont l’ensemble de ces pré-événements de surface qui s’enchaînent pour former l’Événement 1989. La Pologne montre l’exemple parce qu’il fallait que quelqu’un ouvre une brèche. D’où le résumé d’une banderole d’étudiants tchécoslovaques à la fin novembre 198942 : « La Pologne dix ans, la Hongrie dix mois, l’Allemagne de l’Est dix semaines, la Tchécoslovaquie dix jours. » « La Roumanie dix heures, et l’Albanie dix minutes43 ». On s’arrêtera dans l’étude des quatre premier pays parce que le reste est le jeu de dominos. La Bulgarie a opérée une « révolution par mimétisme44 ». En Roumanie ce qui s’est passé demeure encore très obscure, mais les pré-événements (ostracisme de l’Occident, ambiguïtés soviétiques, pressions des intellectuels dissidents, mécontentement de la population) et l’effet domino ont achevé le régime.

1.2.1. La Pologne : le modèle de la démocratisation négociée.

En Pologne, tous les germes étaient présents pour conduire au changement de régime en 1989. Tous les pré-événements y étaient plus forts qu’ailleurs. Surtout, l’économie y était catastrophique, et dès 1980 à Gdansk avec la signature des accords en août autorisant le droit de grève et la création de syndicat, puis la création de Solidarność45. La Pologne bénéficiait ainsi d’une tradition et d’une expérience d’opposition depuis 10 ans. Il était pour ainsi dire « normal » que cela se passe. Alors pourquoi en 1989 ?

Dès 1987 le général Wojciech Jaruzelski est affaibli par l’échec du référendum du 29 novembre ainsi que les grèves sauvages. 1987 est l’année du « nouveau Gorbatchev » et de son changement de politique. Le gouvernement doit se débrouiller seul, il doit faire des signes d’ouverture vers l’opposition. « Pour transformer une économie polonaise en décrépitude, il fallait impérativement élargir l’assise populaire du pouvoir46 ». Au début 1988, tête pensante de l’opposition Bronisaw Geremek propose « un pacte social contre la crise ». L’idée de la Table ronde fait son chemin, finalement proposée par Jaruzelski le 13 juin. Pendant cette période, des tractations ont lieu avec Moscou pour connaître sa position, mais elle reste vague et par conséquent « qui ne dit mot consent ». Le gouvernement et l’opposition acceptent l’idée de la Table ronde parce qu’elle leur semble être dans leurs intérêts respectifs : pour le gouvernement, il s’agit de stabiliser le régime et d’obtenir l’aide de l’Ouest ; pour Solidarność, il s’agit d’entamer un processus démocratique avec une période de transition47. Elle se déroule du 6 février au 5 avril. Ainsi est-il convenu de ce que se dérouleront des élections parlementaires « semi-démocratique » avec 65% des sièges réservés à la coalition gouvernementale et le reste à l’élection libre. Le résultat des 4 et 18 juin est la débâcle du POUP, qui doit s’allier avec les partis satellites pour conserver la majorité à l’Assemblée, et la victoire écrasante au Sénat avec 99 sièges sur 100.

Le rapport de force est clairement du côté de l’opposition. Après des hésitations et tractations, le premier gouvernement à majorité non-communiste depuis 1945 est formé par Tadeusz Mazowiecki le 24 août 1989. Deux problèmes se posaient, d’une part le refus du POUP de laisser Solidarność accéder au pouvoir, d’autre part, le refus de la population, qui était hostile dès le début à l’idée de dialogue avec le POUP, que Solidarność entre dans un gouvernement de coalition avec le POUP. Mais les deux partis satellites, le Parti démocrate (SD) et le Parti paysan (ZSL) firent faux bon à leur partenaire qui ne pouvait plus s’opposer à la venue de Solidarność au pouvoir. Par ailleurs, les communistes devaient rester dans la coalition pour des raisons d’apaisement géopolitique, la Pologne étant encore entourée de pays communistes, et pour rassurer Moscou. La Défense et l’Intérieure restèrent aux mains des communistes temporairement.

Les derniers mois de l’année furent marqués par l’engagement des réformes du nouveau gouvernement, et la liquéfaction du PC, cela parce que l’appartenance au parti « n’était plus la condition indispensable de la promotion sociale et du bien-être matériel48. » Ainsi, « en dépit d’un système institutionnel toujours marqué par l’héritage de la Table ronde, et malgré la présence aux plus hautes fonctions de l’Etat des hommes de l’ancien régime, la Pologne faisait ses premiers pas, sinon encore vers la démocratie complète, du moins vers l’indépendance et la souveraineté nationale49. » Paradoxalement, la Pologne a peiné dans sa transition démocratique parce que sur l’échiquier politique le nouveau mastodonte politique Solidarność a bloqué la formation de partis politiques pour favoriser l’alternance démocratique, d’autant que les partis politiques sont discrédités par la culture intellectuelle du pays50. Au contraire de la Hongrie dont le modèle démocratique sera directement issu du PC qui adopte le modèle de la Table ronde pour les réformes, mais où deux partis démocratiques vont éclore ouvrant très tôt la voie à une démocratisation réelle.

1.2.2. La Hongrie : ouverture de la « frontière de Pandore » après la « réfolution ».

Dès 1956 pouvait-on lire dans les rues de Budapest : « Nem kell nekunk kommunizmus » (« Nous ne voulons plus du communisme »). La répression violente avait fait taire ce rejet resté latent dans la population. Le « communisme de goulasch » était censé faire oublier l’absence de liberté politique au profit de la relative abondance matérielle. Aussi le PSOH est dès le début plus ouvert aux réformes. La situation économique a accéléré le processus. Au contraire de la Pologne, la Hongrie est partagée entre réformistes et conservateurs au sein du PSOH. Le réformiste Imre Pozsgay affirme le 28 janvier que « l’insurrection de 1956 était une insurrection populaire et non une contre-révolution », légitimant la volonté de pluralisme de la société. Même le centriste Károly Grósz se déclare pour le « multipartisme ». Clairement les réformistes exigent plus que des réformes structurelles : « le modèle du socialisme réel est irréformable. Nous devons créer un nouveau. » affirmait l’économiste partisan de Pozsgay Csaba Csáki.

La grande première de la Hongrie est d’avoir voté pour la première fois une nouvelle constitution abandonnant le rôle dirigeant du PC, les 20-21 février 1989. Devaient s’en suivre élections libres et liberté d’expression et désaffection du PC. Les organisations et associations d’opposition se développaient tandis que celles officielles périclitaient. Les réformateurs étaient nettement majoritaires, et le glas du PC semblait être marqué par la commémoration officielle d’Imre Nagy où furent condamnés les crimes communistes. Tout était prêt pour la chute, mais restait le même dilemme « compromis ou confrontation ». Le modèle de la Table ronde fut choisi avec la participation du Forum démocratique (MDF) et de l’Union des démocrates libres (SZDSZ). La démocratisation va vite durant l’été. Si en octobre c’est encore un gouvernement communiste qui modifie la constitution vers plus d’Etat de droit, en novembre c’est le SZDSZ qui l’emporte. On peut parler d’une « réfolution » dans la mesure où le PSOH de lui-même entame une réforme d’une telle ampleur qu’elle entraîne la fin du régime.

Le relâchement des liens avec Moscou est à la source de l’ouverture des frontières avec la RFA, décisions prise en toute indépendance. Cela a directement déclenché les événements de RDA et Tchécoslovaquie.

1.2.3. La RDA : le « Checkpoint Charlie » de non-retour.

L’ouverture de la frontière en Hongrie avec l’exode des touristes Est-Allemands a marqué le début de la fin en RDA. Pour preuve, tout allait encore pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possibles à l’orée de l’année 1989. Même au sein de la SED il n’y avait pas de déchirement conservateurs/réformistes. Cependant, les pré-événements décrits plus hauts étaient latents mais bien présents même si souterrains. Ils allaient jouer leur rôle plus tard lorsque le mécontentement s’exprimerait par les pieds. Pour l’heure ils étaient réprimés avec l’habituelle intransigeance.

A l’ouverture de la frontière en Hongrie et les premiers départs de touristes, le gouvernement est-allemand exprime son mécontentement. Mais cela allait devenir une véritable hémorragie et marquerait la fin du régime non pas par un vote démocratique, mais par un vote par les pieds51. L’absence d’opposition et d’antagonisme conservateur/réformistes explique l’absence de toute table ronde et même de toute volonté de changement au sein du SED. Cet aveuglement et cet immobilisme sont dus à l’histoire et la place géostratégique (dominée par l’idéologie autant que par les conceptions classiques du « middle land ») de la l’Allemagne de l’Est. La population malgré les informations officielles filtrées étaient au courant grâce à la réception des télévisions occidentales. Une fois de plus l’hésitation de Moscou qui ne disait rien fut décisive car sans son soutien la RDA était isolée internationalement. Seuls les conservateurs soviétiques étaient un support.

Dans cette atmosphère unique depuis la séparation de l’Allemagne, il était normal que des manifestations commencent. D’abord à Leipzig, puis l’hémorragie d’une RDA soudainement hémophile. La contestation intellectuelle comme en Hongrie et pour les mêmes raisons venait des réformistes du SED. De par la spécificité idéologique, la RDA ne pouvait souffrir aucune réforme, sinon le régime n’aurait plus de raison de vivre, et les conservateurs du SED l’avaient bien compris52. Pourtant les réformes étaient inévitables, et Moscou les appelait de ses vœux. Aussi Gorbatchev estima qu’il fallait se débarrasser de Erich Honecker trop conservateur. Egon Krenz porta le coup de grâce aux conservateurs et prît les rênes d’un pouvoir devenant ingouvernable. Toutes les promesses de réforme n’empêchaient pas l’exode. L’ouverture dû être annoncée le 9 novembre 1989. Après le passage du Checkpoint Charlie, il était évident qu’une RDA n’avait plus de raison d’être. Le communisme n’avait pas étouffé le lien national et la réunification mettra fin au régime : « Wir sind ein Volk ».

1.2.4. La Tchécoslovaquie : rôle des intellectuels et début de l’effet domino.

Les intellectuels ont joué un rôle très important. La pression de la Charte 77 et la liaison avec la Pologne sont les éléments clefs de la compréhension de la chute du régime. Encore une fois, Gorbatchev en légitimant les demandes de réformes a joué un rôle essentiel dans la chute du régime. L’effet domino a joué ensuite avec la solidarité éprouvée avec les citoyens de RDA franchissant les grilles de l’ambassade de RFA. Le recul du gouvernement a enhardi les manifestants tchécoslovaques. Du côté des autorités il n’y avait pas de réformateurs depuis 1968. C’est donc la rue qui devait faire avancer les choses. Elle finit par l’emporter notamment parce que toute aide soviétique était à exclure par le pouvoir qui n’avait donc plus d’appui de force à opposer.

Ainsi ce qui s’est passé en 1989 est la conjonction d’un certain nombre de pré-événements souterrains et de pré-événements de surface. Les pré-événements souterrains peuvent se regrouper en trois sphères : la sphère structurelle (économie, système communiste, politique de Gorbatchev) ; une sphère intellectuelle (rôle des intellectuelles, de l’Eglise, de la société civile) ; et une sphère extérieure (communauté internationale, Accords d’Helsinki). Les pré-événements de surface s’organisent comme un schéma de dualité onde/particule dont les deux premières sont la Pologne et la Hongrie, puis la RDA et la Tchécoslovaquie, et ensuite les autres pays.

2. 1989, quel Événement ?

Pour comprendre l’Événement 1989, il ne suffit pas d’avoir vu les pré-événements souterrains et de surface, il faut aussi voir les post-événements. Il s’agit essentiellement de savoir comment qualifier l’Événement 1989. Ultime réforme d’une longue série de tentatives ? Révolution du peuple ? « Réfolution » ? Qu’était-ce que 1989 ? Pour le voir il faut observer ce qu’il s’est ensuivi. Car enfin, pourquoi les apparatchiks auraient-ils cédés le pouvoir ? Certes, il y avait la pression populaire. Certes Moscou encourageait le vent des réformes. L’étude sociologique des élites semble très éclairante. Le post-événementiel est nécessaire à l’intelligence de l’événementiel.

A ce titre, on peut essayer de voir plusieurs critères pour tenter de définir la nature de 1989 : le renouvellement des élites ; le renouvellement des idées ; les gagnants et les perdants ; recherche de responsables. A partir de là, il est plus aisé de s’interroger sur ce qui s’est passé en 1989.

Par ailleurs, il y a deux sortes de phénomènes qui se sont déroulés en 1989. D’une part il s’est passé quelque chose que l’on appelle sous une pluralité de vocables « révolution » ou « réforme ». D’autre part, le vocable d’Europe centrale est venu remplacer celui d’Europe de l’Est. On peut d’ailleurs se demander si l’un et l’autre ne sont pas corrélatifs ; si la recherche d’un vocable commun pour définir 1989 procède d’une volonté de n’y voir qu’une entité culturelle et historique là où il y a multiplicité de pays.

2.1. Les post-événements de 1989.

2.1.1. La « décommunisation » limitée.

Lors de la Révolution française il y eut des procès, et, non des moindres, le Roi et la Reine y perdirent leur tête en tant que responsables. Après 1989 il y en eu peu. Pourquoi ? Les mécontentements et les contestations sociales étaient pourtant très forts. Cela s’expliquerait par le phénomène de « conversion » des élites communistes53. Cette conversion politique leur a évité les jugements type 1789 ou type « réconciliation nationale ». C’est essentiellement grâce à la Table ronde que cela c’est produit. La Table ronde a permis bien sûr la reddition contrôlée et pacifique ce que les citoyens leur en sont gré, mais elle a aussi permis leur « réhabilitation patriotique » par cette « acte de confession »54. D’autre part, la Table ronde, qui avait d’ailleurs scellée d’étonnantes amitiés nouvelles entre anciens ennemis, a privé les anciens dissidents de tout discours anti-communiste puisqu’ils avaient accepté de négocier55. Par conséquent, « comment traiter en criminels ceux qui rendent le pouvoir de leur plein gré56 ? »

Il y eut certes la loi de lustration en Tchécoslovaquie, mais la stratégie de lustration eut un effet inverse en se transformant en « une arme brandie par des combattants de la dernière heure, par des non-dissidents qui forment des partis qui se classent eux-mêmes à droite sur l’échiquier politique57. » Par ailleurs, les anciens dissidents qui avaient le plus souffert de l’ancien régime se déclaraient eux-mêmes contre les lustrations58.

Ils revendiquent dans l’après 1989 leur part dans la chute du système avec fierté. Ils considèrent que ce sont eux les instigateurs de la démocratie et du marché qu’ils semblent apprécier mieux que d’autres59. Ils se sentent donc indispensables au fonctionnement du pays dans le nouveau régime.

Par ailleurs, la Table ronde a provoqué « l’illisibilité de l’acte de rupture60 ». Ce qui favorisera plus les communistes que les opposants et leur permet de revenir sur le devant de la scène. Ce brouillage des frontières entre un avant et un après d’un Etat dirigé par les communistes contribue à brouiller la lisibilité de l’Evénement 1989.

2.1.2. Le non-renouvellement des élites.

Consécutivement à l’absence de volonté de chercher des responsabilités, les anciennes élites se sont maintenues dans les sphères exécutives publiques et privées. L’ancienne nomenklatura s’est reconvertie assez largement. Cependant, il faut distinguer dans l’ancienne nomenklatura les vieux bureaucrates et les jeunes technocrates, ces derniers s’étant mieux adaptés à la nouvelle situation61. Environ 20 % de la nomenklatura s’est retrouvée à la retraite anticipée ou privée de ses avantages en Pologne, Hongrie et Tchécoslovaquie62. Un quart environ des nomenklaturistes s’est reconverti dans la possession d’entreprises privées, grâce à leur capital politique et culturel63. On aurait pu s’attendre à plus vaste lustration.

Les anciens communistes ont généralement bien traversé la « décommunisation » et sont restés les élites administratives et politiques d’une part et économiques et financières d’autre part. Le passage de la nomenklatura à la classe capitaliste s’est en fait amorcer dès les années 1970, elle s’est étendue dans les années 1980 et a abouti en 1990 en Pologne et Hongrie64. Grâce à des lois votées en 1988 et 1989, les la nomenklatura économique est entrée en possession des actifs économiques65. Ces anciens communistes l’étaient par nécessité, parce qu’il fallait être membre du parti pour obtenir une ascension sociale. Cela a joué un rôle de « prédisposition » à devenir les futures capitalistes en raison de leur fort capital culturel et social66.

Cette capacité d’adaptation de la part des membres de l’ancien régime est extraordinaire. Certes, ce sont essentiellement ceux de la génération des « jeunes technocrates » recrutés selon leur compétence et non plus leur orthoglosie politique. Néanmoins ce phénomène est troublant pour qualifier 1989 de révolution ou de simple réforme.

2.1.3. Les nouvelles idées relativement absentes.

« Les vieilles idées s’écroulent, mais où sont les nouvelles67 ? » Ainsi s’interroge Timothy Garton Ash. Au lendemain de 1989, les démocrates sont mis en minorité, désavoués par l’électorat qui leur doit cette existence. Adam Michnik observe « des dizaines de formations totalement inaptes à formuler de façon autonome des programmes de politique économique68. » Par ailleurs, il craint la réincarnation des vieux démons du communisme que sont la haine, l’intolérance, l’agressivité et des tendances autoritaires sous d’autres drapeaux69. En fait, l’archaïsme subsiste à travers d’autres formes comme le nationalisme, et il est d’autant plus difficile à reconnaître que ce « diable du fondamentalisme » revêt divers habits. Que valent les nouvelles idées de démocratie et de droits de l’Homme dans cette « autre Europe » qui bafoue les droits des minorités ? Les rapports entre allemands de l’Ouest et de l’Est sont difficiles, et l’ont se définit en « Ossis » et « Wessis »70.

Selon Jean-François Revel, il n’y a pas de révolution parce que les soulèvements populaires ne procédaient pas à des « projections d’une société future sur l’écran de l’utopie71 ». La nouvelle utopie libérale risque d’être détruite par l’anti-utopie qu’est la renaissance nécessaire de l’Etat providence.

On peut alors s’interroger sur la nature de 1989. Bien sûr il y a l’adhésion à la Communauté pour certains, d’autres pays ne sont pas autant versés dans l’autoritarisme. Mais la transition des esprits vers la démocratie semble d’autant plus difficile que la mémoire est courte. L’exemple le plus frappant est l’émergence de politiciens de la « page blanche » qui n’ont pas de passé politique sous le communisme et qui récolte les suffrages d’une population qui voudrait se reconnaître dans cette virginité politique72.

2.1.4. Les gagnants et les perdants.

« Dans toute révolution il y a des gagnants et des perdants », mais il est difficile d’appliquer cette affirmation à 198973. La « drôle de révolution » de 1989 a été faite au nom de la classe ouvrière. Pourtant, celle-ci n’est pas la grande gagnante dans le monde post-communiste. Ce sont bien les ouvriers de Solidarność qui portèrent l’estocade au communisme. Mais « les ouvriers d’Europe centrale et orientale sont aujourd’hui les grands perdants de la révolution post-communiste, tassés dans des bastions de l’industrie lourde obsolète, impossible à convertir ou à privatiser74. »

On peut même se demander s’il y a bien eu un acteur central dans l’Evénement 1989. Dans la masse des pré-événements, on a pu percevoir de nombreux facteurs et de nombreux acteurs. Il y a un phénomène d’implosion qui n’est pas non plus négligeable.

Les anciens dissidents sont rejetés par les urnes. Les gagnants semblent être ceux là même qui devaient perdre, mais qui ont réussi à user de leur place stratégique au sein de la nomenklatura pour se positionner favorablement dans la nouvelle ère capitaliste.

2.1.5. Désaffection « contre-révolutionnaire ».

Si l’on considère 1989 comme une révolution, ce qui sera sujet à discussion plus tard, alors la situation post-1989 n’est-elle pas, pour utiliser un vocable anachronique, « contre-révolutionnaire ». Les citoyens sont désorientés par les thérapies de choc et autre transition libérale qui leur fournit une société pire que celle qu’ils ont quittée. La démocratie et les libertés fraîchement conquis sont désertés et l’on se met à rêver des « hiers » qui chantaient. Les taux d’abstention frôle les 50% voire 60% aux élections75. Mais il est vrai, comme l’opine Ghandi, « à quoi sert la liberté si l’on a faim ? »

*

2.2. Comment qualifier 1989 ?

Napoléon a clos la Révolution par la formule célèbre : « La Révolution est terminée 76! » Ce qui signifiait que toute l’organisation était maintenant conforme aux principes révolutionnaires. Toutes les anciennes charges publiques étaient dorénavant occupées par les bourgeois, le tiers état. Le Roi n’était plus. L’ancien régime était né et les Lumières avaient triomphées. Les historiens hésitent à utiliser le mot « révolution » aux événements de 1989, parce que s’il y a bien la fin d’un cycle, le cycle nouveau ne vient pas. Les mêmes sont restés. Alors si « la révolution commence quand le tyran finit77 », il y a bien eu révolution parce que le totalitarisme est mort. Mais les anciens communistes se sont bien reconvertis et ont plutôt bien passé le cap de la « décommunisation ».

2.2.1. Réforme ou révolution ou « réfolution » ou post-soviétisme ou conversion ?

Timothy Garton Ash parle de « réfolution ». Jacques Rupnik parle de réforme avec dérapage non contrôlé pour la Pologne et la Hongrie et de soulèvement populaire pour la RDA et la Tchécoslovaquie. Laszlo Bruszt parle de « révolution de velours, révolution négociée ». François Fejtö parle de « révolution sans révolutionnaires ». Georges Mink et Jean-Charles Szurec se concentrent sur le phénomène de conversion des réformateurs.

Comment qualifier ce qu’il s’est passé en 1989 ? Sur le moment, tout le monde avait l’impression de vivre une révolution. Quelque chose d’impensable se produisait. Aucun analyste ne l’avait prédit ou en tout cas de façon générale, sur le long terme comme Martin Malia ou Claude Lefort78. On savait que cela arriverait, mais quand ? Les images des gens sur le mur étaient incroyables. Mais après l’émotion du moment, il y eut une amère impression que la révolution était retombée comme un soufflée, voire qu’elle n’avait pas eu lieu. Les spécialistes avancent plusieurs hypothèses sur ce qui s’est passé en 1989. Pour l’Histoire, il convient de mettre un nom sur l’Evénement. Mais quel mot ? Et surtout, les concepts existants en Histoire et en science sociale sont-ils pertinents pour rendre compte d’un phénomène inédit ? Et peut-on appliquer un seul concept à ce qui relève d’une pluralité de situations ?

« Il y eut révolution parce qu’il y avait débordement79 » selon Pierre Kende. Certes, mais alors pourquoi les anciens ont-ils pu si bien se convertir ? Pourquoi les anciens revendiquent-ils si fièrement leur rôle dans la « révolution » ? Il semble que le rôle de conversion des nomenklaturistes ait joué un rôle important. Ce rôle est cependant limité à la Pologne et la Hongrie. Les pays à tradition non réformatrice (Tchécoslovaquie, RDA) ont été emportés par le soulèvement populaire. Si bien que l’on ne peut pas généraliser sur une Europe centrale. Il y a eu réforme qui s’est emballée. Il y a eu révolution qui ne s’est pas trop emballée. Donc « réfolution » si l’on veut absolument regrouper les pays de l’ex-Europe de l’Est dans un même concept sous prétexte qu’ils ont vécu le même événement.

« Réfolution » mais réforme curieuse et révolution curieuse. Réforme curieuse parce que les réformateurs étaient conscients de la nécessité de réformes politiques accompagnants les réformes économiques. Ils étaient donc conscient de la fin du système. La « conversion » avait commencé bien avant. Révolution curieuse par ce que les élites converties sont toujours aux commandes de l’appareil d’Etat et des postes de responsabilité politique, et des entreprises privées.

Si l’on observe deux pays appartenant bien à la sphère culturelle d’Europe centrale, la Pologne et la Tchécoslovaquie, on se rend compte que les événements sont très différents. En Pologne, le pouvoir a été rendu après négociation, après une longue lutte de dix ans. La Pologne a été la première à se détacher grâce à la pression des dissidents. Est-ce que cela se serait passé en Tchécoslovaquie, sans les événements de Pologne et de Hongrie ? De même la Hongrie est très différente de la Pologne parce qu’il s’agit clairement d’une volonté de réforme des dirigeants et qui a été rattrapée par l’Histoire. De plus, les post-événements ne sont pas non plus les mêmes parce que par exemple le phénomène de lustration est parti de Tchécoslovaquie. Là où il y a eu Table ronde, la « décommunisation » était moins marquée, et d’autant moins le phénomène révolutionnaire.

Il semble que les concepts manquent pour analyser un fait unique dans l’Histoire. Après tout, la sagesse n’apprend-elle pas qu’il n’y a pas de loi générale dans l’Histoire sinon que les Hommes cherchent à garder leur place sociale ? Pourquoi faudrait-il absolument mettre un vocable connu et commun sur un événement difficilement connaissable et unique ? De plus, est-il logique d’affubler d’un dénominateur commun des expériences multiples ? Ne serait ce pas continuer à voir l’ex-Europe de l’Est comme une entité et non comme une multiplicité de pays et de cultures ? Cela ne découlerait-il pas du fait que l’on veut toujours ne voir qu’une seule entité derrière le vocable « Europe centrale » ?

2.2.2. La (re)naissance de « l’autre Europe ».

C’est la thèse de Jacques Rupnik que de dire que 1989 marque le renouveau de ce concept déjà mentionné auparavant d’« une autre Europe », mais il n’est pas le seul. Le concept d’une ère européenne culturellement distincte est d’ailleurs née dans l’esprit d’historiens, historiens polonais émigrés aux Etats-Unis qui considérèrent qu’il fallait remarquer quatre entités européennes : Ouest, centre-Ouest, centre-Est et Est. Aujourd’hui, on distingue seulement trois secteurs comme le fait Jacques Rupnik, qui détermine l’Ouest, le Centre et l’Est.

Le terme d’Europe centrale pose de nombreux problème. D’abord, il est suspect parce qu’il est apparu avec 1989. Le terme est pourtant ancien, du XVIIIème siècle, 1830 notamment avec Marton qui définit l’Europe centrale comme entité comprenant les Allemands, les Tchécoslovaques, les Suisses et les Hongrois. Les critères retenus séparément ne sont pas très pertinents mais ensembles forment cette entité. Par la suite on a distingué centre-Ouest et centre-Est. Mais chez Newman, le concept de « Mitteleuropa » a servi les dessins pan-germanistes de Hitler. Oublié donc depuis 1945.

Ensuite, comment définir l’Europe centrale ? Qui en fait parti ? Comme son nom l’indique, c’est le centre, donc c’est « entre deux ». Entre l’Ouest et l’Est. Milan Kundera dans L’Occident kidnappé parlait de l’Europe centrale comme étant « à l’Ouest culturellement, à l’Est politiquement ». Czesław Miłosz considère qu’il existe « une autre Europe », terme qui marquera les esprits. L’historien hongrois Jenő Szűcs parle des « Trois Europes ». Avec le régime communiste qui vacille, les formules pour désigner l’ensemble est-européen fourmillaient. Le terme est aujourd’hui entériné avec l’Union européenne qui planifie son aide aux PECO (pays d’Europe centrale et orientale).

Aujourd’hui il s’agit d’un nouveau champ de recherche des sciences sociales. Si l’on en croit l’Atlas des peuples d’Europe centrale80, l’Europe centrale comprend la Finlande, l’Estonie, la Lettonie, la Lituanie, la Biélorussie, l’Ukraine, la Pologne, la République Tchèque, la Slovaquie, la Hongrie, la Roumanie, la Slovénie, la Croatie, la Bosnie, le Monténégro, la Serbie, la Macédoine, la Bulgarie, la Grèce, et l’Albanie. Beaucoup de pays sont problématiques concernant leur appartenance à l’Europe centrale. Les Balkans notamment posent problème. L’Ukraine aussi en raison de sa proximité avec la Russie, tout comme la Biélorussie. La Finlande est proche de la Hongrie culturellement, mais ne fait-elle pas partie du Conseil Nordique ? C’est un pays nordique81.

Il y a diverses théories pour fonder l’Europe centrale, selon l’histoire, la culture, la population, la langue, la religion, etc. Les théories se confrontent, mais tout le monde s’accorde pour distinguer une entité dite « Europe centrale ». Pomian dans « l’Europe et ses nations », avance l’hypothèse que l’Europe centrale est constituée de peuples qui ont subi l’influence des deux pôles de l’Est et de l’Ouest et vivent dans un type d’identité instable, une certaine relativisation d’appartenance formelle.

Une chose s’est certainement produite en 1989, la naissance du concept « d’Europe centrale » à la place de « l’Europe de l’Est ». Mais les intellectuels dissidents avaient déjà préparé le terrain avant. Timothy Garton Ash essaye de tirer les traits communs à la notion d’Europe centrale à travers les écrits d’Adam Michnik, Vaclav Havel et György Konrad82. Le premier élément semble être l’anti-politique (Konrad), qui veut que le pouvoir des sans pouvoir (Havel) ne soit pas à rechercher dans l’Etat ni dans la lutte partisane politique classique, la droite et la gauche étants des concepts dépassés. Le second élément serait la morale à la place de la division gauche droite, c’est à dire l’introduction de la morale dans la pensée politique, et le fondement de celle-ci non pas sur l’Etat ou la société mais sur l’individu et l’autogestion. Le troisième élément serait conséquemment la société civile qui transcende Etat et parti politique à travers l’individu moral. Cela doit se faire par le quatrième élément, la non-violence, et le cinquième, la valeur du sacrifice. Il y a par ailleurs un mépris de l’économie et du monde matériel. Depuis les Lumières, l’Europe centrale des intellectuels aurait une tradition d’humanisme séculier et rationaliste, ainsi que d’un certain cosmopolitisme. L’Europe centrale lorgne plus vers l’Occident pour les idées que vers l’Orient.

Après quoi Timothy Garton Ash s’interroge, et l’on peut poser les mêmes questions. « L’existence imaginaire d’une certaine Europe centrale ne découlerait-elle pas de l’existence réelle de l’Europe de l’Est83 ? » Et d’arguer de ce que les concepts formant l’Europe centrale découlent en fait de la position qui était la leur dans l’Europe de l’Est. Cette interrogation est sans doute pertinente pour des concepts de philosophie politique formés dans l’impuissance sous le totalitarisme. Il est bien évident que la démocratie revenue le concept d’« anti-politique » est difficilement tenable. La morale peut sans doute s’insérer dans la tradition politique et cela n’en serait que d’autant mieux dans un post-communisme corrompu. Pour le reste, les traits communs d’une Europe centrale sont pertinents.

Le concept d’Europe centrale était ainsi préparé par les intellectuels de l’a-historique Europe de l’Est, en prévision de la fin de l’hégémonie soviétique sur cette partie de l’Europe. L’enjeu est de définir une ère culturelle propre pour s’affirmer et se (re)construire. C’est là que se fait jour l’intérêt du concept. Les pays d’Europe centrale comprennent, du moins leurs intellectuels, de l’intérêt de former un bloc culturel commun pour faire face aux grandes puissances européennes en tant que petites ou moyennes nations84.

Toujours est-il qu’il reste un concept intellectuel. Le grand nombre de minorités et les explosions nationales du post-communisme sont-elles compatibles avec la théorisation d’un grand ensemble culturel commun ? Ce que l’on appelle le « modèle nordique », de l’autre côté de la Baltique, n’a jamais beaucoup marché dans des réalisations communes malgré des affinités culturelles et historiques indéniables. Sans doute l’Europe centrale est-elle un concept permettant de généraliser une certaine identité culturelle et historique, mais est-il pertinent pour l’étude de 1989 ?

Il est patent que répondre à la question « que s’est-il passé en 1989 en Europe de l’Est ? » est une gageure (surtout dans ce type d’exercice restreint). D’abord parce que 1989 est encore à la limite de l’Histoire et de l’actualité. Ensuite parce que de nombreux événements dont les enchaînements sont complexes expliquent en partie ce qui s’est passé (thème de la première partie). Enfin, parce que les événements postérieurs à 1989 apportent un éclairage différent sur 1989 (thème de la seconde partie). Ce qui semble être certain c’est qu’en 1989 « l’autre Europe85 » bourgeonne à nouveau avec le dégel du glacis soviétique86.

Par ailleurs, il semble qu’il faille démarquer l’ex-Europe de l’Est selon les pays. 1989 est l’aboutissement d’un processus de « grande conversion » en Pologne et en Hongrie. En Tchécoslovaquie et en RDA 1989 est une secousse en raison de la non-violence des mouvements. Dans les autres pays cette année semble marquer une certaine révolution. 1989 marque certainement le début d’une période post-soviétique, la percée du bourgeon Europe centrale brisant le glacis soviétique. Ce qui s’est passé en 1989 c’est l’inévitable, le cent fois prédit effondrement. 1989 c’est la fin de l’emprise du communisme sur la société, la fin du communisme à la soviétique. Fin du totalitarisme en Europe centrale et fin du communisme en tant que projet historique.

Alors si « la bêtise c’est de conclure », il nous semble plus intéressant d’annoncer les prolégomènes par cet essai qui ne peut fournir une étude qui demanderait d’être beaucoup plus profonde pour parvenir à l’intelligence de l’Événement 1989. D’après ce que nous avons vu, il nous semble que les pré-événements et post-événements peuvent être modélisés en sphères de résonances qui elles-mêmes se répondraient entre elles. Ainsi il serait plus aisé d’établir un synoptique de départ pour visualiser les sujets variés et vérifier les domaines dans lesquels ils ont pu influencer d’autres. C’est alors de longues recherches qui doivent avoir cours. Alors seulement nous paraîtrait-il possible de répondre à la question.

__________________________

1 François Bluche, Dictionnaire des citations et mots historiques, Paris, Editions du Rocher, 1997, pp. 316-317.

2 Ibid., p. 205.

3 Ilya Prigogine et Isabelle Stengers, Entre le temps et l’éternité, Paris, Flammarion, 1992, p. 47. Cité in Zaki Laïdi (ed.), Le temps mondial, Bruxelles, Complexe, 1997, p. 16.

4 Raymond Aron, « Karl Marx », Les étapes de la pensée sociologique, Paris, Gallimard, collection Tel, 1967, pp. 141-221.

5 Czesław Miłosz, Enfant d’Europe, Lausanne, Editions l’Age d’Homme, 1980, p. 48.

6 Martin Malia, La tragédie soviétique – histoire du socialisme en Russie 1917-1991, Paris, Seuil, Points, 1995, pp. 53-56.

7 Stephen Hawking, A brief history of time – From the Big Bang to Black Holes, London, Bantam Books, paperback edition, 1999, p. 193.

8 Le passé d’une illusion, Le livre noir du communisme.

9 Zaki Laïdi, « Le temps mondial », in Marie-Claude Smouts (dir.), Les nouvelles relations internationales – pratiques et théories, Paris, Presses de Sciences Po, 1998, pp. 183-202. Zaki Laïdi, « Le temps mondial », in Zaki Laïdi (dir.), Le temps mondial, Bruxelles, Complexe, 1997, pp. 11-52.

10 Zaki Laïdi (dir), Le temps mondial, p. 26.

11 Gilles Deleuze, Logique du sens, Paris, Minuit, 1969, p. 199, cité in Zaki Laïdi, Le Temps mondial, p. 14.

12 François Fejtö, La fin des démocraties populaires. Les chemins du post-communisme, Paris, Seuil, Points, 1997, p. 145.

13 Ibid.

14 Martin Malia, op.cit.

15 Jacques Rupnik, L’autre Europe. Crise et fin du communisme, Paris, Odile Jacob, Points, 1993, p. 232.

16 Fejtö, op. cit.

17 Rupnik J., op. cit., p. 234.

18 Ilios Yannakakis, « La secousse », in Pierre Kende et Aleksander Smolar (dir.), La grande secousse, Presses du CNRS, 1990, p. 28.

19 Jacques Rupnik, op. cit., p. 236.

20 Ibid., p. 235-236.

21 Martin Malia, Comprendre la révolution russe, Paris, Seuil, Points, 1980, pp. 212-227.

22 Rupnik J., op. cit., p. 250.

23 Martin Malia, La tragédie soviétique, op. cit., p. 244

24 Pierre Kende, « l’énigme Gorbatchev ou le préalable », in Pierre Kende et Aleksander Smolar (dir.), op.cit., p. 13.

25 Georges Mink et Jean-Charles Szurek, La grande conversion, Paris, Seuil, 1999, p. 21.

26 Jacques Rupnik, op. cit., p. 346.

27 Fejtö F., op. cit., p. 148.

28 Ibid., p. 138.

29 Rupnik J., op. cit., p. 281.

30 Ibid., p. 287.

31 Ibid., p. 303.

32 Rupnik J., op. cit., p. 280.

33 Michel Winock, Le siècle des intellectuels, Paris, Seuil, 1999.

34 Martin Malia, La tragédie soviétique, op. cit., pp. 81-106. Comprendre la Révolution russe, op. cit., 1980, pp. 55-69. Hannah Arendt, Le système totalitaire, Paris, Seuil, Points, 1972, pp. 27-50.

35 Chantal Delsol, Michel Maslowski (dir.), Histoire des idées politiques de l’Europe centrale, Paris, PUF, 1998, p. 589.

36 Rupnik J., op. cit., p. 307.

37 Ibid., p. 306.

38 Ibid., p. 292.

39 L’autre Europe, « Religion et politique », n° 20, cité in ibid., p. 306.

40 Fejtö F., op. cit., p. 131.

41 Fejtö F., op. cit., p. 132-134.

42 Timothy Garton Ash, « The Revolution of the Magic Lantern », New York Review of Books, 16 janvier 1990. Cité in Jacques Rupnik, op. cit., p. 358.

43 Jacques Rupnik, « 1989-1999 : paysage après la bataille », Transeuropéennes, 1999, n° 16, pp. 81-87.

44 Fejtö F., op. cit., p. 305.

45 Voir L’Alternative, numéro spécial, 1982, « Pologne : le dossier de Solidarité. Gdansk, août 1982 – Varsovie, décembre 1981 ».

46 Fejtö F., op.cit., p. 254.

47 Kende P., op. cit., p. 32.

48 Fejtö F., op. cit., p. 262.

49 Ibid., p. 263.

50 Georges Mink, « Pologne. Le paradoxe du compromis historique. », in Pierre Kende et Aleksander Smolar, op. cit., p. 65.

51 Fejtö F., op. cit. p. 278.

52 Fejtö F., ibid. p. 281-282.

53 Georges Mink et Jean-Charles Szurec, La grande conversion, Paris, Seuil, 1999, 312 p.

54 Ibid., p. 51.

55 Ibid., p. 56.

56 Ibid., p. 153.

57 Ibid., p. 155.

58 Ibid., p. 155.

59 Ibid., p. 90-91.

60 Ibid., p. 58.

61 B. Szalai, « The Power Structure in Hungary after the Political Transition » dans Ch. G. A. Bryant, E. Mokrzycki (eds), The New Great Transformation ? Change and Continuity in East-central Europe, London, Routledge, 1994, cité in Georges Mink et Jean-Charles Szurec, « L’ancienne élite communiste en Europe centrale : stratégies, ressources, et reconstructions identitaires », Revue Française de Science Politique, vol. 48, n° 1, février 1998, pp. 3-41, p. 4.

62 G. Mink et J-C. Szurec, ibid., p. 5.

63 Ibid., p. 6.

64 G. Mink et J-C. Szurek, La grande conversion, p. 146.

65 Ibid., p. 147.

66 Ibid., p. 148.

67 Timothy Garton Ash, La chaudière – Europe centrale 1980-1990, Paris, Gallimard, collection Témoins, 1990, p. 254.

68 Adam Michnik, « Le diable de notre temps », p. 142, in Georges Mink et Jean-Charles Szurec (dir.), Cet étrange post-communisme, Paris, Presses du CNRS/ La Découverte, 1992, 366 p.

69 Ibid., p. 145.

70 Valentin Pelosse, « Ossis, Wessis : Identité est-allemande ou le peuple impossible », in Ibid. pp. 165-184.

71 G. Mink & J-C. Szurec, Cet étrange post-communisme, p. 10.

72 Adam Michnik, Ibid., p. 141.

73 G. Mink & J-C. Szurec, Cet étrange post-communisme, p. 7.

74 Ibid., p. 9.

75 Ibid., p. 14.

76 François Bluche, op. cit., p. 272.

77 Ibid., p. 272.

78 Claude Lefort, L’invention démocratique, Paris, Fayard, 1994, 331 p.

79 Pierre Kende, op.cit., p. 14.

80 André Sellier et Jean Sellier, Atlas des peuples d’Europe centrale, Paris, La découverte, 1998, nouvelle édition, 199 p.

81 Le vocable « nordique » regroupe les trois pays scandinaves, Danemark, Norvège et Suède, ainsi que la Finlande et l’Islande.

82 Timothy Garton Ash, « L’Europe centrale existe-t-elle ? », op. cit., pp.188-222.

83 Ibid., p. 217.

84 Rupnik, op. cit., p.20.

85 D’après l’essai de Czesław Miłosz, Une autre Europe, Paris, NRF Gallimard, 1964, 303 p., qui relate l’identité de l’Europe centrale à travers l’autobiographie de l’auteur. Le titre est donc mal traduit en français parce que la traduction littérale ferait mieux ressortir l’idée de l’essai : « Mon Europe natale ». Voir Milosz par Milosz, entretiens avec Ewa Czarnecka et Aleksander Fiut, Paris, Fayard, 1986, p. 201.

86 C’est l’essai de Jacques Rupnik, L’autre Europe – Crise et fin du communisme.

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Pollock, Sheldon, Bhabha, Breckenridge — Cosmopolitanisms

Work Cited 

Pollock, Sheldon, Homi K. Bhabha, Carol A. Breckenridge, and Dipesh Chakrabarty. “Cosmopolitanisms.” In Cosmopolitanism, edited by Carol A. Breckenridge, Sheldon Pollock, Homi K. Bhabha and Dipesh Chakrabarty, 1-14. Durham, NC & London: A Millennial Quartet Book, 2002.

Cosmopolitanism as an object of study: practice and theory related in a necessarily open concept

Cosmopolitanism comprises some of today’s most challenging problems of academic analysis and political practice, especially when analysis and practice are seen… as a conjoint activity. For one thing, cosmopolitanism is not some known entity existing in the world, with a clear genealogy from the Stoics to Immanuel Kant, that simply awaits more detailed description at the hands of scholarship. We are not exactly certain what it is, and figuring out why this is so and what cosmopolitanism may be raises difficult conceptual issues. As a practice, too, cosmopolitanism is yet to come, something awaiting realization. Again, this is not because we already understand and can practice it but have not – [sic] a mode of action whose rules we are familiar with and need merely to apply. Cosmopolitanism may instead be a project whose conceptual content and pragmatic character are not only as yet unspecified but also must always escape positive and definite specification, precisely because specifying cosmopolitanism positively and definitely is an uncosmopolitan thing to do (Pollock, et al. 2002, 1)>.

The indeterminacy of how to achieve a cosmopolitan political practice feeds back into the problem of academic analysis. As a historical category, the cosmopolitan should be considered entirely open, and not pregiven or foreclosed by the definition of any particular society or discourse. Its various embodiments, including past embodiments, await discovery and explication. In this way, the components of the linked academic-political activity of cosmopolitanism become mutually reinforcing: new descriptions of cosmopolitanism as a historical phenomenon and theoretical object may suggest new practices, even [2] as better practices may offer a better understanding of the theory and history of cosmopolitanism (Pollock, et al. 2002, 1-2).

Cosmopolitanism as questioning “our time”

“Emergent discourses of cosmopolitanism are riven with deep historical ironies about what it means to live in our times. What defines our times? What times are ours?” (Pollock, et al. 2002, 4)

Transition marks the questions of our times. And “Cosmopolitanism, in its wide and wavering nets, catches something of our need to ground our sense of mutuality in conditions of mutability, and to learn to live tenaciously in terrains of historic and cultural transition” (Pollock, et al. 2002, 4).

In this interstice we are confronting old and new, past and present.

Cosmopolitanism as a critic of neoliberalism

Today’s times are marked by a “neoliberal emphasis [that] falls more on individualist aspirations and universalist norms” (Pollock, et al. 2002, 4-5). But this revenant late liberalism reveals, in a more exaggerated form, a struggle at the heart of liberal theory, where a genuine desire for equality as a universal norm is tethered to a tenacious ethnocentric provincialism in matters of cultural judgement and recognition(Pollock, et al. 2002, 5).

All the derring-do between the local and the global in the dialectic of worldly thinking should not conceal the fact that neoliberal cosmopolitan thought is founded on a conformist sense of what it means to be a “person” as an abstract unit of cultural exchange (Pollock, et al. 2002, 5).

A rights culture is essential. But “None of this should hide the fact that the fetishization of liberal individualism has, in the past few years, created a cosmopolitan imaginary signified by the icons of singular personhood” (Pollock, et al. 2002, 5). World citizenship is personalised by Gates, Mother Theresa and Soros.

Cosmopolitanism as a critic of modernity: minoritarian modernity

“A cosmopolitanism grounded in the tenebrous moment of transition is distinct from other more triumphalist notions of cosmopolitical existence” (Pollock, et al. 2002, 5). Modernity has produced several universalist claims to world citizenship: capitalism (world connected of markets), communism (united workers of the world), late liberalism (humans as bearers of rights). Each of them is framed by the idea of national sovereignty. “… Nationhood is the social form that renders modernity self-conscious… so that the cosmopolitan spirit may inhabit a world that is ethically synchronous and politically symmetrical.” (6) However it has shown the terrible asymmetries of the idea of modernity itself. (6)

The cosmopolitanism of our times does not spring from the capitalized “virtues” of Rationality, Universality, and Progress; nor is it embodied in the myth of the nation writ large in the figure of the citizen of the world. Cosmopolitans today are often the victims of modernity, failed by capitalism’s upward mobility (Pollock, et al. 2002, 6).

These people are refugees, diaspora, migrants. Too often, in the West, these people are seen as a problem. Cultural pluralism is recognising difference only as long as the general category of people is understood in the national frame.

“What we are calling minoritarian modernity (as a source of cosmopolitan thinking) is visible in the new forms of transdisciplinary knowledges that we initiate in the “multicultural” academy” (6) It is a way to “provincialise” Europe and seek cosmopolitical genealogies from the non-Christian Sanskrit world. “Transdisciplinary knowledge, in the cosmopolitan cause, is more readily a translational process of culture’s inbetweenness than a transcendent knowledge of what lies beyond difference, in some common pursuit of the universality of the human experience.” (6-7)

Cosmopolitanism and feminism

 

Cosmopolitanism as diversity

… The nature of late-twentieth-century nationalism, multiculturalism, and the globalization of late liberalism has created a historical context for reconsidering concepts of cosmopolitanism (7).

Most discussions of cosmopolitanism as a historical concept and activity largely predetermine the outcome by their very choice of materials. If it is already clear that cosmopolitanism begins with the Stoics, who invented the term, or with Kant, who reinvented it, then philosophical reflection on these moments is going to enable us always to find what we are looking for. Yet what if we were to try to be archivally cosmopolitan and to say, “Let’s simply look at the world across time and space and see how people have thought and acted beyond the local.” We would then encounter an extravagant array of possibilities. (10)

Doing this in this volume shows that history of cosmopolitanism can be rewritten dramatically, and that the range of practices allow for new and alternative theoretisation.

The core project of modernity is to exclude the middle: an object is either x or not-x. In this sense modernity is an attempt to separate and purify realms that have never been separated nor pure and still are not (12). This holds true in particular for individuated and unique cultures.

What the new archives, geographies, and practices of different historical cosmopolitanisms might reveal is precisely a cultural illogic for modernity that makes perfectly good non-modern sense. They might help us see that cosmopolitanism is not a circle created by culture diffused from a center, but instead, that centers are everywhere and circumferences nowhere (12).

The essays attempt to expand the repertory of archives, geographies, histories and disciplines of cosmopolitanisms. Diversity becomes the force and the project.

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The identical cameleon

chameleo_parsoniiNow that I have started to acquire some degree of mastership in several languages, I am beginning to wonder about the side-effects of being a polyglot. Googling the term “polyglot” I came to the wikipedia page dedicated to multilingualism. According to some studies, there is a difference being made between “compound bilinguals” and “coordinate bilinguals”. The difference is that the first group understand the two words in two different languages designating the same thing as referring to the same concept or thing, while the second group would associate these two words with two different concepts. In the second group, people will tend to express two different personalities in these two languages. However, this is an ideal-type and bilinguals are a bit of both. I would certainly be in the middle, with a tendency to being a “coordinate bilingual”. I find the distinction rather strange and unclear. According to this distinction, only the first group is a group of fluent speakers in both languages. I wonder if the classification is not made by monolingual people. It seems to me that the first group is very likely not to be bilingual. To take the example given, a “chien” and a “dog” are the same for them. But this is non-sense. Sure a dog is a dog is a dog. But there are so many different cultural references associated to the dog in each language, that it just does not make sense to associate the two words with the same thing, when they have two different lexical fields associated with them. “Dog!” is not a very strong insult in English, whereas “Chien !” is definitely a powerful expression of disgust towards a person’s behaviour in French. Furthermore, the British tradition for pets would also certainly add different dimensions to what is associated with the word “dog” than in French. And, finally but not exhaustively, I could think of one’s own personal experience in England or France related to dogs, and appreciation of the treatment given to dogs in each culture.

I was not particularly good at school in languages, but I realise now that it may have been because languages are taught in school in one’s mother tongue, and people are forced to be “compound bilinguals”. I am now much better at learning languages, because I am learning on my own, and with my own method. I try to learn a language as a native would, and embrace the whole culture that comes with it, rather than trying to think in my referring mother tongue and translate systematically with the idea that all the words designing concepts in my “own” language have a translation.

Doing so, I have come to develop different personalities, and undermine or loose the original one. I grew up in France, and sometimes I do not even know how to express myself in French any longer. I left France and kept a literary connection with French. Coming back to France, it seems to me that no one speaks French correctly, and that French is and should only be a written language, since it is so demanding. I have for instance a hard time being funny in French, unless I have to write. On the contrary, English seems to be the language of humour. Perhaps, the reason is that I enjoy all the American situation comedies, and the satirical shows, as well as the English ones.

In Danish, I am still wondering how to be. It is still difficult finding the Danish me.

Of course, learning languages this way is much more fastidious, but I think it is the only way to truly learn them. One could say that I am monolingual in several languages, with more or less vocabulary. I enjoy particularly the way a language sounds, and learning how to pronounce correctly. It demands a lot of effort and concentration however, and often it is easier to start from reading out loud a text, than actually uttering a thought, as it drives the attention away from the sheer pronunciation. The shift from one language to the other is not easy however. It requires a few minutes of adaptation, and sometimes I may even sound foreign in my own mother tongue.

There is a new wave of cosmopolitan writers writing in a foreign language, or mixing foreign languages with their native language, or again re-inventing their native language with forms of expressions and thinking that are foreign. There is surely a lot to develop for a cosmopolitan literary theory.

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Cosmopolitanism and all that jazz

Peter Wessel wrote an excellent essay on jazz, a tad historical and analytical, of the mingling, or lack thereof, and intermingling of cultures and traditions. If music is already considered to be the most universal mode of communication, then jazz would be its lingua franca. Unfortunately, it has become an idiom, a fixed form, in many of the attempts in its history to transcend the genre. As a matter of fact, the issue may lie in the reflex to bend jazz towards one’s own culture — an oral culture for black Americans, a classical music culture for white Americans, Peter writes. This has led to many attempts to reinvigorate jazz, which inevitably became locked in their own idiom. Jazz was at a low point by the end of the 60s — almost a dead end. Frank Zappa once famously wrote in his 1974 tune Be-Bop Tango (Of the Old Jazzmen’s Church) on the album Roxy & Elsewhere, “jazz is not dead, it just smells funny”. Only World Music managed to find a more encompassing way according to Peter:

World Music succeded in reinvigorating jazz precisely because it did not try to melt all jazz into one pot. Instead it took pot luck and accepted the dynamic plurality that is characteristic of the European checkerboard of peoples.

This sounds like a cosmopolitan music theory — a universal mode of expression anchored in the principle of freedom of expression, yet respectful of the plurality of sensibilites and views.

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ius gentium droit naturel chez Rabelais, et progression sur les Lumières

Petite note de lecture en passant. Rabelais évoque à propos des couleurs de Gargantua, la distinction entre jus gentium et droit naturel (jus naturae) dans Gargantua aux éditions de la Pléiade (pp. 30-31):

Et n’est cette signifiance par imposition humaine institué, mais receue par consentement de tout le monde, que les philosophes nomment ius gentium, droict universel valable par toutes contrées.

Comme assez sçavez, que tous les peuples, toutes les nations (je excepte les antiques Syracusans et quelques Argives : qui avoient l’ame de travers) toutes les langues voulens exteriorement demonstrer leur tristesse portent habit de noir : et tout dueil est faict par noir. Lequel consentement universel n’est faict que nature n’en donne quelque argument et raison : laquelle un chascun peut soubdain par soy comprendre sans aultrement estre instruict de personne, laquelle nous appellons droict naturel.

tj0026_125Il y aurait donc deux droits universels, l’un par convention humaine appelé le droit des gens ou jus gentium, et l’autre le droit naturel ou jus naturae qui ne fait l’objet d’aucune convention humaine tant son empire est immédiatement évident dans son universalité.

Paradoxalement, si le droit naturel semble moralement le plus fort, il est politiquement le plus faible. C’est aussi tout le sens des culottes blanches et bleues de Gargantua. Il a été décidé par agence humaine de la symbolique des couleurs. Cependant il est possible d’arguer de sa valeur universelle naturelle.

Pour hasarder une comparaison pour les moins osées, le “droit d’ingérence” opère du même principe que le choix des couleurs de Gargantua, et c’est tant mieux. On argue de l’universalité naturelle des droits de l’homme pour en justifier un début de convention humaine (en droit international, on pourrait dire que la création d’une coutume fera objet de droit positif).

Pourtant c’est là aussi toute la fragilité, car qui décide d’une loi naturelle ? On pourra toujours argumenter contre elle. Il y aura toujours un groupement humain qui n’aura pas telle coutume, pour qui le noir ne symbolisera pas la tristesse et le deuil, mais le rose ou le vert. C’est là tout le problème d’une loi morale universelle, qui paradoxalement, n’est qu’une illusion puisqu’elle est issue d’une réflexion humaine.

Cette recherche de loi naturelle, de morale naturelle, est très engagée durant les Lumières, dans le courant Angliciste, et les métaphysiciens germaniques surtout (Wolff, Pufendorf, et même le Danois Holberg). Ce sera l’occasion d’établir des systèmes moraux et politiques dont le souverain unique est Dieu, et la loi celle de Dieu. Projets pour le moins difficiles à réaliser sur une terre d’hommes. C’est pourquoi d’autres versions physiques et non métaphysiques remplaceront Dieu par la Nature. Les lois de Dieu deviennent les loi naturelles au sens où comme il y a des lois de la nature qui dictent à une pomme de tomber sur la tête de Newton lorsqu’elle est mûre, il y aurait des lois morales qui font que les hommes se comportent comme ils le font. Notamment Holbach développent les “sciences politiques et morales”, qui feront l’objet de la création d’une nouvelle académie après la Révolution ; académie qui subsiste toujours aujourd’hui sous la même appellation.

Cependant le problème n’est toujours pas régler du souverain. Sous la révolution, on ne pense pas au relativisme culturel. Les lois sont universelles. La liberté est universelle. La politique de la liberté est donc universelle. Cloots proclame l’humanité seul souverain. La nation est souveraine, mais il s’agit de la nation du genre humain.

Le problème qui se soulève alors est celui des particularismes politiques selon les cultures.

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Mikkel Thorup – Cosmopolitics!

Great article in Eurozine published in 2006 by Mikkel Thorup, lecturer at the University of Århus in Denmark, on political cosmopolitanism. It explains well where contemporary cosmopolitanism stands, in between universalism, pluralism, and nationalism: “New cosmopolitanism is therefore critical of what we can call the universalist Left and the nationalist Right.”

Still, the article, as most of cosmopolitan theories, is confusing cosmopolitanism with the figure of the cosmopolite. Certainly, the recent resurgence of cosmopolitanism in contemporary political theory is a direct consequence of globalization. However, one should also note that this resurgence has been and is still widely limited to the English speaking world. In particular, the debate started in the USA with Martha Nussbaum’s article opposing cosmopolitanism to patriotism. In other words, the debate did not appear in other countries, and if it appeared in the USA it is because of the previous debates in political thought, between liberalists, communautarianists, libertarians, and more recently multiculturalists and pluralists. Globalization just triggered new dimensions into these debates.

A metaphoric nation-state

A metaphoric nation-state

New cosmopolitanism is therefore a product of debates in English-speaking political philosophy. As a reflex, it takes the condition of the “cosmopolite” as a reference, but it has, as a matter of fact, little to do with this. Moreover, if cosmopolitanism bases itself on the figure of the “cosmopolite”, it is doomed to remain in a state of minoritarian philosophy. Contrary to what the perception of globalization is, the real figure of mobility is not as extravaguant as it has been in the past (say during the 19th century). What is new is the perception of world community given by globalization. What is new is the possibility to approach foreign cultures, foreign modes of thinking, without actually moving an inch from one’s computer with broadband internet connection. So cosmopolitanism should rather philosophise not on our cosmopolitan condition, but our present condition close to the one of King Ludwig II of Bavaria: living in a fantasy-like castle, and not traveling, but having a horse-carriage drive around in the castle’s courtyard exactly the same distance as the one needed to travel from the castle to a determined destination (Paris, Milan, etc).

Abstract:

The cosmopolite’s notion of justice does not cease to exist at the national border. She dreams of the world city, filled with opportunity and potential for change; the labyrinthine commotion of the marketplace and the pluralism of human existence. But fundamentalist Muslims, Christians, and others despise the “world city”. Political cosmopolitanism was born out of an analysis of globalization – it is critical both of the neoliberal globalization of the market and the fundamentalist or nationalistic backlash. Questions concerning world citizenship, dual citizenship, and multiple loyalties make their presence felt as it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate between inner and outer, foreign and domestic politics, citizen and foreigner, friend and foe.

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From the nation-state to the cosmopolitan-state: politics and culture for the 21st century

Thank you Peter for commenting on “Polyfonias” and delving into literary analyses.

brueghel-tower-of-babel1I would like to add to your comment on monolingualism. It seems that today we have forgotten our past when it comes to language. Our past was Babelian (but not in the sense that the myth should serve the construction of a universal homogeneity — a powerful Judeo-Christian myth), Babelian in the sense of the plurality of languages. This proximity without a nation-state to impose one national “mother tongue” involved a necessary understanding of other cultures and languages, when exposed to them.

This is not talking about any “intellectual elite”. Central and Eastern Europe, what in the USA has been called the “new Europe”, but which is not a good description of this part of Europe, one should rather speak with Czesław Miłosz of the “other Europe” (bad French translation of “Rodzinna Europa” or “family Europe”). If one looks at a map of all the historical frontiers drawn for the past 150 years in Europe, one is struck by the fact that this “other Europe” is completely dark. Cross-cultural and multilingual exchanges have been common to most of the populations there, outside any overarching authority. Simple peasants were multilingual by birth and by necessity, simply because people were living together speaking different languages.

Even inside centralised countries such as France, it is only because of jacobinism, and the late 19th-century construction of the national state with a national culture that French and a “French identity” took over regional languages and cultures. So much so, that it has long been considered archaic and un-modern to nurture such regional cultures. But why would they be? In Spain, it has not been so and Catalunya is for instance much more recognised as a culture and language. After all, there are more inhabitants in Catalunya than in, say, Denmark. Why would one be only a region and the other a nation-state?

The congruence between culture and politics is an invention of the late 19th century national-state construction. The imposition of a single language, and by there a single culture, supposedly national is con-substantial with this form of nationalist project.

“Cosmopolitanism” need not be an elitist project. First, cosmopolitanism has been labelled elitist and utopian by nationalists themselves in the late 19th century. “Cosmopolitans” were labelled as some dangerous enemies of the national unity, and the “patrie” because of Montesquieu’s theory that a democracy can only survive if its members love the laws and cherish the res publica. During the 18th century the “cosmopolitan” is labelled as a traveller, touring Europe, and having no fixed “patrie”. Therefore, how could he/she be a good patriot? The term symbolised the aristocrats, married to several European aristocratic families. These people were rejected during the revolution, as “tyrants”, and Sieyes and others replaced the King with the “nation”. However, the “nation” at that time was a very cosmopolitan one, it included just any freeman in the world. The French revolution was supposed to be a beacon for freedom. So much so that foreigners were included, and became members of the “national assembly”. So much so that some of these “foreigners”, like Anacharsis Cloots, would proclaim humankind the sole sovereign, and the only possible nation. The concept of “nation” at that time was thus not yet “nationalised” into a French, a Danish or a Spanish nation. This came later. Soon enough however, the idea of nation became exclusive. Cosmopolitan “idealists” like Cloots were sent to the guillotine — this wonderful modern invention used in France until 1981 (1977 last execution).

However, this position of opposing nationalism and cosmopolitanism is not tenable and confusing many things. First, it assumes that cosmopolitanism is based on the idea of a cosmopolitan, and nationalism on the idea of nation. Then it assumes that a cosmopolitan is a traveller, elitist because multilingual, and without a fixed “patrie”, while the national is more concrete, fixed identity, monolingual. The idea of nation, however, can be cosmopolitan, as the concept was during the French revolution.

The real problem is when the nation is understood as a fixed concept around one language, one culture, one country, exclusive of any other, and that it is an ideology in the service of, and policy of a state — the owner of legitimate violence over individuals. In many ways, the nation-state has been and still is a necessary political and social organisation. It has created modern democracies, justice, flourishing cultures. But if understood with concepts of the nineteenth century, it is doomed to fail in a globalized world.

We need to reinvent our nations, and replace the nation-state with a cosmopolitan state, which would live more peacefully in cross-cultural co-existence with other cosmopolitan states, and inside a European Union of cosmopolitan states. Monolingualism would no longer be the norm, and everyone should be taught several languages at school and have the chance to live in other countries during their life. In other words, what the nation-state did to populations, the cosmopolitan-state should now do.

Posted in Cosmopolitan comments on the news, Cosmopolitan experiences, Cosmopolitanism, Cosmopolite | 1 Comment

Research Proposal

research-proposal2

title-pageHere is the research proposal I have elaborated for a 3 years PhD research. All comments and feedback are more than welcomed to refine the project.

Posted in Research projects, Research themes | 3 Comments

Peter Wessel – Polyfonías

I went to a concert/poetry reading at the Danish house in Paris, the institution in charge of promoting Danish (not only but mainly) culture in France. Peter Wessel, a Danish born poet who lived in France, Spain, California, and who knows where else, was performing with Mark Solborg, a Danish/Argentinian composer, guitarist and musician, and Salvador Vidal, a Spanish clarinetist, percussionist. They recently won the second prize of the international art competition organised by the Spanish ministry of culture to mark the European year: 2008culturas.com. They released a CD in 2008 entitled “Polyfonias”.

Peter Wessel

Peter Wessel

Peter Wessel creates his own poetry, as most poets do, but not the way most poets do. “Dentro de mí / viven cuatro personas, each / with their own voice,/ su propia / lengua,/ sa propre langue./ Hver med sit eget sprog / og sin egen stemme.” There are four poets inside Peter, four voices uttering words, in their own langue. Of course, the issue is immediately that one needs to understand and speak these four languages in order to hear the poet out. I have the chance to be born Danish, to have been raised in France, to have learnt Spanish at school and spent some times in Spain, and having studied in England. The four Peters travelling in one Wessel, spoke to me. I heard him out.

The musicians were not there for creating some easy listening background. They were actively involved in setting the atmosphere, underlying the music of the voices, creating a space between bass and high pitches, linking the four voices of the voice in a universal language, interrupting the polyfonias with a few re-conciliating solos.

The poetic experience is as much a philosophical consideration of the cosmopolitan mélange. As many solutions, as many problems. Peter says, the poet must embrace multiculturality and not defend “ethnic purity” of his language from foreign words. Still, the language in question is a “national language”, giving a feeling of identity, belonging to a tribe, uniform and indivisible. That is the conundrum of this mélange. If we take it as a multi-something mélange, it is a compartmented mélange, but is it really a mélange. If we take it as a pluri-something mélange it is a mélange, but in the end, do the original elements subsist?

The cosmopolitan mélange? It must still find a way… Perhaps something of the individual identity. But the need for cohesion, for community? It comes naturally with the individual. But the need for an overall institution, guardian of the cohesion of a language? They’ll still be there, as long as some individuals feel the need for an overarching authority to regulate their lives. Others will feel free. Many have already started a new revolution. Many new poets are speaking in polyfonias of voices, not only with “foreign” voices, but with “vernacular foreign” voices. New expressions, based on “foreign” ideas, new modes of expressing, new ways of constructing words, sounds, feelings, adopted from “foreign” modes of life, already form a re-articulated “national” identity, a cosmopolitan nationality, connected with other cosmopolitan nationalities, into a worldly cosmopolitan cosmopolitanism.

Peter Wessel’s page on myspace.

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Ottmar Ette (University of Potsdam) The Scientist as Weltbürger: Alexander von Humboldt and the Beginning of Cosmopolitics

Excellent article on Humboldt and cosmopolitanism, arguing that the ‘Weltbürger’ was a scientist and the scientist a ‘Weltbürger.’ This reminds me of my own research on the use of the term cosmopolitan and citizen of the world in eighteenth century France. Very often people would use it as a moniker to claim a position of universal truth, a certain neutrality of view in international debates, and certainly a position of positivity as a subject. Very sketchily this position was made possible — this is my contention — because of the central position that humanity took in the discourse, and the general belief in the universality of reason. Every person through reason could ponder the laws of universal truth, without any particularistic bias. This is the fundament of positivity and its connection to the cosmopolitan. However, I argue that cosmopolitan and cosmopolitanism are two different things, and cannot be equated to one another. The apparition of the word ‘cosmopolitanism’ is a late nineteenth century invention, contemporary with the social embeddedness of nationalism. Since nationalism claimed the particular, the fixed, the boundary, cosmopolitanism, based on the travelling cosmopolitan became the general, the world, the moving, the boundaryless. Some US/THEM differentiation.

Here is the link on Humboldt and cosmopolitanism:

http://www.uni-potsdam.de/u/romanistik/humboldt/hin/ette-cosmopolitics.htm

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History of Cosmopolitanism in Western Political Thought

title-pageMy master’s thesis “Element of an Archaeology of Cosmopolitanism in Western Political Thought: A Return to the French Enlightenment” is now available for download on the Danish website of the Department of Political Science, Centre for European Politics, University of Copenhagen.

Using Foucault’s archaeology and problematisation, coupled with the Cambridge school’s contextualism, I investigate the archive of the discourse of cosmopolitanism in Western political thought, focusing on the French Enlightenment (1713-1795).

I start with a non-essentialist description of the contemporary discourse of cosmopolitanism in Western political thought, rather than a definition of cosmopolitanism. This description identifies a primary core of the discourse, composed of a “holy trinity”: humanity, the individual, and God. A second core is composed of a certain conception of community and identity; however identity is downplayed in the present study.

The historical part then analyses the primary core in French enlightened philosophy. It shows the metaphysical origins of humanity, outlining a certain conception of the individual as a creature of God. The physical conception challenges this view and replaces God with nature, and God’s laws ruling natural society with nature’s law governing an ever present human society.

Both conceptions fall short in determining the appropriate sovereign power to govern a humanity of free and equal individuals. Conceptions of community in the eighteenth century developed a vocabulary based on the “nation” and “patrie” replacing the King and the kingdom, but based on natural law theories. This leads to an abstract and boundaryless conception of moral community: the nation in the patrie.

Not surprisingly then, revolutionaries like Robespierre and especially Cloots argued for a unique sovereign — humankind — gathered in a unique nation, thus forming a universal republic of humankind, the common “patrie.”

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Posted in Cosmopolitanism, Eighteenth century, MA thesis, Method in the history of ideas, Research projects, Research themes | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Beck, Ulrich — The Cosmopolitan Vision

Work Cited

Beck, Ulrich. The Cosmopolitan Vision. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006.

Summary of the Introduction

The introduction opens with the opposition cosmopolitanism/patriotism. Today this old debate is over because the human condition has become cosmopolitan (2)

Cosmopolitanism is no more a controversial rational idea.

The “cosmopolitan outlook”: “Global sense, a sense of boundarylessness. An everyday, historically alert, reflexive awareness of ambivalences in a milieu of blurring differentiations and cultural contradictions. It reveals not just the ‘anguish’ but also the possibility of shaping one’s life and social relations under conditions of cultural mixture. It is simultaneously a sceptical, disillusioned, self-critical outlook.” (3)

Examples:

Cosmopolitan identities: “One constructs a model of one’s own identity by dipping freely into the Lego set of globally available identities and building a progressively inclusive self-image. The result is a patchwork, quasi-cosmopolitan, but simultaneously provincial, identity whose central characteristic is its rejection of traditional relations of responsibility.” (5) Good example of the “both/and” that replaced the “either/or” of methodological nationalism.

Cosmopolitan empathy: “globalization of emotions” (5-6). Five interconnected constitutive principles of the cosmopolitan outlook:

  1. The principle of the experience of crisis in world society: “civilisational community of fate”
  2. The principle of recognition of cosmopolitan differences and the resulting cosmopolitan conflict character
  3. The principle of cosmopolitan empathy and of perspective-taking
  4. The principle of the impossibility of living in a world society and the impulsion to rebuild old walls
  5. The mélange principle: local and cosmopolitan cultures and traditions interpenetrate, intermingle.

Difference between globalization and cosmopolitanisation: globalization is one-dimensional as economic globalization. Cosmopolitanisationis multidimensional, it has irreversibly changed the historical nature of social worlds.

Three examples of cosmopolitans based on Munich, three writers from Munich write in distinct traditions of “rooted cosmopolitanism” that have both “roots” and “wings”:

  1. Thomas Mann (national cosmopolitanism): rejects in Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man the alternative nationalism versus internationalism and formulates the position of a national cosmopolitanism although he is aware of the “in-built ambivalences”. (11)
  2. Lion Feuchtwanger (German-Jewish cosmopolitanism): against the arbitrary administrative boundary one is born that determines who are friends and enemies
  3. Oskar Maria Graf (Catholic cosmopolitanism): From Tolstoy’s Christianity and Patriotism he quotes: “If men would only finally grasp that they are not children of some fatherland but of God the father!” (13) He puts “The world must become provincial. Only then will it become human.”

“What, then, does the cosmopolitan outlook signify? It does not herald the first rays of universal brotherly love among peoples, or the dawn of the world republic, or a free-floating global outlook, or compulsory xenophilia. Nor is cosmopolitanism a kind of supplement that is supposed to replace nationalism and provincialism, for the very good reason that the ideas of human rights and democracy need a national base. Rather, the cosmopolitan outlook means that, in a world of global crisis and dangers produced by civilisational and international, us and them, lose their validity and a new cosmopolitan realism becomes essential to survival.” (13-14)

Critique

Beck is building on his conception of “second modernity” and the “reflexive condition” it entails, as expounded in his famous Risk Society, and developed in the sequel World Risk Society and What is Globalization? In a nutshell, the present condition is reflexive, and as such everything is constructed including “reality.” As such there are no fixed identities, since they are socially constructed. The first modernity characterised by realism and a primary scientization with rationalism and the Enlightenment is replaced by a “reflexive scientization” based on constructivism. As such, science is equally altering the reality is attempts to describe and understand. Methodological cosmopolitanism is perceived as a better tool for describing this second modernity where globalisation — the movement produced by a world economy and increasing individualisation — have replaced the industrial society with a world risk society.

In consecutive articles and in this book, Beck elaborates on what he understands as cosmopolitanism, and develops the concept of “cosmopolitan realism.” He takes distance from “philosophical cosmopolitanism,” but in the end the project of a cosmopolitan sociology may just be the wishful thinking for normatively imposing a cosmopolitan project through “science.” For that, cosmopolitanism is opposed to nationalism, which is the basis for analysing the first modernity through the prism of the nation-state. Cosmopolitanism is also differentiated from globalization, which is a process of uniformization of the world around Western capitalistic values. Cosmopolitanism also have “enemies” in all forms of sectarian particularism, or uniformism, or violent universalism. All in all cosmopolitanism appears as “the good thing” that everyone should embrace.

I am not particularly unsympathetic to cosmopolitanism, but I think that a number of contradictions should be resolved. First and most importantly, this methodological cosmopolitanism claims to be opposed to nationalism, because different from methodological nationalism. However, it is based on the same hidden mechanisms of thought. Basically it is just replacing the nation-society on the “local” level we now know, with a global level. Everything we know in the nation-state is transferred to a global and transnational level.

Is cosmopolitanism synonymous with global then? Why not call it globalism? Well, because globalism is too close to globalization, which is a bad thing. Cosmopolitanism refers to something more positive, at least in our contemporary Western culture. This is the reason why the study of globalization could not lead to the introduction of a globalism philosophy, whereas cosmopolitanism as a philosophy seems to lead to the introduction of the study of “cosmopolitanization.”

My personal research project is actually to understand where our perception of cosmopolitanism as opposed to nationalism comes from, and why is cosmopolitanism associated with travel. My contention is that these two conceptions are not necessarily obvious to cosmopolitanism. First, the opposition between nationalism and cosmopolitanism, appeared when nationalism became a socially embedded discourse in the second half of the nineteenth century, and cosmopolitanism was thus constructed as the significant “other” to nationalism as negative and opposed to the good values of nationalism. This cosmopolitanism can hence be called a “national-cosmopolitanism,” since it is constructed inside the national paradigm. Second, the idea that cosmopolitanism is related to travel and the “citizen of the world” as a globe-trotter, is situated in eighteenth century Europe, when the “grand tour” was a must for all educated citizen or aristocrat. It was popularised by e.g. Oliver Goldsmith’s The Citizen of the World in Britain, or Fougeret de Monbron’s Le cosmopolite ou le citoyen du monde in France, which famous opening sentence served as an inspiration to Byron in Childe Harold as the epigraph runs:

The universe is a kind of book of which one has only read the first page when one has only seen one’s native land. I’ve leafed through a number of them, and have found them all equally bad. This examination has not proved fruitless. I hated my country. All the impertinences of the diverse peoples among which I have lived has reconciled me to it.

Further readings:

”Toward a new critical theory with a cosmopolitan intent”, Constellations, Vol. 10, No 4, 2003.

“Cosmopolitical realism: on the distinction between cosmopolitanism in philosophy and the social sciences”, Global Networks 4, 2, 2004, pp. 131-156.

”The cosmopolitan perspective: sociology of the second age of modernity, British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 51, No 1, 2000, pp. 79-105.

”The cosmopolitan society and its enemies”, Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 19(1-2), 2002, pp. 17-44.

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Held, David — Culture and Political Community: National, Global and Cosmopolitan

Work Cited
Held, David. “Culture and Political Community: National, Global, and Cosmopolitan.” In Conceiving Cosmopolitanism: Theory, Context, Practice, edited by Steven Vertovec and Robin Cohen, 48-58. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

1. Historical backdrop
The globalisation of culture has a long history. The expansion of great religions, pre-modern empires, etc. “For most human history, these extensive ruling cultures passed through a fragmented mosaic of local cultures and particularisms; little stood between the political centre and the village. It was only with the emergence of nation-states and national cultures that a form of cultural identity coalesced between these two poles” (Held 2002, 48). Nation-states and nationalist projects transformed the spatial organisation of culture: education, linguistic policies, postal systems etc.
During the 18th century a new form of cultural globalisation crystallized: science, liberalism and socialism were modes of thought that “transformed the ruling cultures of almost every society on the planet” (49). Much more than McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.
However, since the end of WWII cultural globalisation increased tremendously. Though the vast majority of cultural products come from the USA, this does not amount to “cultural imperialism”, because culture is reinterpreted locally.
2. National culture and its Presuppositions
The creation of the modern state has helped creating a sense of nationhood. The consolidation of the ideas and narratives of the nation and nationhood has been linked to many factors:
– Attempt by ruling elites and governments to create a new identity that would legitimize the enhancement of state power and the coordination of policy
– Creation, via the education system, of a common framework of understanding, to enhance the process of state coordinated modernization
– Emergence of new communication systems, which facilitated interclass communication, and diffusion of national histories, a new imagined community
– Building a historical sense of homeland, consolidation of ethnic communities via a common public culture, shared legal rights and duties, and an economy creating mobility for its members within a bounded territory (50)
However, many nations were built on the basis of a pre-modern “ethnic core” (50).
“Political theory, by and large, has taken the nation-state as a fixed point of reference and has sought to place the state at the centre of interpretations of the nature and proper form of the political good” (Held 2002, 51).
Theory of political community:
1. Its members have a common socio-cultural identity
2. There is a common framework of “prejudices”, purposes and objectives, an “imagined community of fate”.
3. An institutional structure protects and represents the community
4. National communities “programme” actions, decisions and policies of their governments, and governments determine what is right or appropriate for their citizens
5. Members enjoy a common structure of rights and duties
Hence, the “ethical discourse cannot be detached from the “form of life” of a community; the categories of political discourse are integral to a particular tradition; and the values of such a community take precedence over or trump global requirements”. (52)
3. The Globalization of communications and culture

Critics of this model by globalists:
1. Cultural and political community today is constantly under review.
2. Failure to appreciate the diversity of political communities that individuals can appreciate
3. Globalisation had “hollowed out” states, eroding their sovereignty and autonomy
4. The fate of national community is no longer in its own hands: regional an global economic, environmental and political processes
5. National communities are locked into webs of regional and global governance
Political community and political good need to be understood as follow:
1. Individuals increasingly have complex loyalties and multi-layered identities
2. Political community begin to be re-imagined in regional and global terms
3. An institutional structure exists comprising elements of local, national, regional and global governance. At different levels, individual communities are represented and protected.
4. Globalization alters what a national community can ask of its government
5. The rights, duties and welfare of individuals can only be adequately entrenched if they are underwritten by regional and global regimes, laws and institutions.
“While for the traditionalists ethical discourse is, and remains, firmly rooted in the bounded political community, for the globalists it belongs squarely to the world of “breached boundaries” – the “world community” or global order” (Held 2002, 55).
4. Cosmopolitan alternatives
A third position, neither traditionalist nor globalist.
Globalists are true to some point about the changes in economics, politics and the environment. But they are underestimating how robust national and local cultures remain, and national institutions continue to have a central impact on public life.
“Cosmopolitanism is concerned to disclose the cultural, ethical and legal basis of political order in a world where political communities and states matter, but not only and exclusively” (57). It dates from the Stoics with “human beings living in a world of human beings and only incidentally members of polities”. But it is anachronistic after 200 years of nationalism. What is not anachronistic is “the recognition of the necessary partiality, one-sidedness and limitedness of ‘reason of political community’ or ‘reasons of state’ when judged from the perspective of a world of ‘overlapping communities of fate’ – where the trajectories of each and every country are tightly entwined” (57).
“Cosmopolitanism today must take this as a starting point, and build a robust conception of the proper basis of political community and the relations among communities”. The Kantian model is inadequate for this. “Cosmopolitanism needs to be reworked for another age.”
No space enough to develop the concept of “multi-dimensional nature of cosmopolitanism”.
Focus on “cultural cosmopolitanism”:
– does not deny cultural difference or the enduring significance of national tradition.
– Capacity to mediate between national cultures, communities of fate and alternative styles of life
– Possibility of dialogue with the traditions and discourses of others, expanding one’s framework of meaning and prejudice
– Emphasizes the possible fluidity of individual identity
Core requirements of “cultural cosmopolitanism”:
1. Recognition of the increasing interconnectedness of political communities in diverse domains including the social, economic and environmental
2. Development of an understanding of overlapping ‘collective fortunes’ that require collective solutions – locally, nationally, regionally and globally
3. The celebration of difference, diversity and hybridity while learning how to ‘reason from the point of view of others’ and mediate traditions.

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Copp, David — International Justice and the Basic Needs Principle

Work Cited
Copp, David. “International justice and the basic needs principle.” In The Political Philosophy of Cosmopolitanism, edited by Gillian Brock and Harry Brighouse, 39-54. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

“Justice requires a state in favourable circumstances to enable its members to meet their basic needs throughout a normal lifespan”: the “basic needs principle” (39).
How to expand the “basic needs principle” internationally?
International distributive justice and the begning world
Conception of Justice:
1. Injustice can be corrected.
2. There is a duty to correct it, it is some agent’s responsibility.(40)
Let’s imagine a world divided into states, each being internally well-ordered and just and there have been no act of injustice between the countries: “Benign World”.
There are however still injustices in it that consists in or supervenes on relevant differences in life prospects, where such differences are due to inequality in the distribution of resources (40).
The basic needs principle
Justice requires a state in favourable circumstances to enable its members to meet their basic needs throughout a normal lifespan: the “basic needs principle”.
Justice also requires equality of opportunity and the basic liberties.
The principle demand intervention in the economy.
Normal lifespan = refers to the requirements of autonomous agency.
Enable = society is required to do the best it can, given what reasonable people would find acceptable.
Favourable circumstances = a state is in a relevantly favourable circumstance if: 1. it is economically in a position to enable its members to meet their basic needs, 2. It is able to do so by permissible means (not violating moral principles).
State, quasi-state, and society

“… Only the state or the society acting through the state as its agent is appropriately held responsible for discharging the duty regarding basic needs” (44).

Only the state is in a position to act as an agent of the society.
In a state of nature there is no possibility to discharge the duty regarding basic needs. In this situation a society has the duty to establish a state in order to gain the ability to discharge this duty.
rationales for the basic needs principle
·    The principle can be grounded in the moral importance of autonomous agency, given that, the basic needs are the requirements of autonomous agency.
·    The principle can also be supported by a Rawlsian argument: in the Original Position, people would choose a “difference principle of basic needs”.
·    Justice based on sufficiency rather than equality.s
·    Nozick’s Lockean proviso.

Injustices in the begnign world

“The basic needs principle applies to the situation in the world as a whole, assuming there is a global society. I think it is plausible moreover, that there is a global society” (Copp 2005, 47):

global economic and trade institutions, global political institutions, communities are not isolated from one another.
Even if every country in the world satisfies the basic needs principle, it is possible that the global society as a whole does not satisfy the principle.
International justice under a global state
A state is the system of institutions that governs a territory in which a legal system is in force, and that administers and enforces the legal system and carries out the programs of the government.
For a global state to exist there would have to be a global legal system and institutions to administer it.
Could be a unitary entity or a federation of states. (48)

“Transparency view”: “… the global state’s duty is to deal directly with the needs of individual people.” (48)

“Divided responsibility view”: “… the individual subordinate states have the primary responsibility to ensure that their residents are able to meet their needs. The global state is required only to ensure that the subordinate states have sufficient resources to be able to meet this primary responsibility.” (48)

The divided responsibility view is the more natural.
International justice in the absence of a global state
The Benign World should be able to organize itself into a global state: a quasi-state for example. “… there would be an entity capable of acting on behalf of the global society, although not perhaps with the effectiveness of a state.” (50)
If states in the state of nature are not in favourable circumstances, then all states have a duty to work together to create a global state (or quasi-state) that would be able to discharge the duty regarding basic needs.
Objections
1.    Global society is not “thick” enough to sustain duties of justice:
Some argue that there are only requirements of distributive justice within a group that shares a culture or set of “common meanings” (Walzer). Copp disagrees, but agrees that the basic need principle would not apply to the global population if that global population did not constitute a society. Requirements of global justice is thus a contingent matter.
2.    A global state would not be viable, or would not be a force for justice:
Nagel, Rawls, Kant agree that a global state is not possible. However, Copp only argues in favour of some kind of federation, to which Rawls and Kant agree that it might be conducive of world peace.
3.    Idea of a division of moral responsibility:

4.    Optimism about politics

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Tagore — The Home and the World

The book is like a diamond sparkling many facettes. I retain the opposition between patriotism and cosmopolitanism – an opposition also noticed by Martha Nussbaum in her article “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism” published in the Boston Review, 1994.

“I am willing,” he said, “to serve my country; but my worship I reserve for Right which is far greater than my country. To worship my country as a god is to bring a curse upon it.”

A woman, Bimala, has been married to Nikhil, a notable, for nine years, when comes at home another man and friend of Nikhil, political radicalist Sandip. Bimala is soon metaphorically nicknamed “Queen Bee”, that is the queen of the national hive. She is tempted by the passion of patriotism represented by Sandip, whereas her husband represents a certain cosmopolitan wisdom, cold and dispassionate. The action mainly takes place at home, and the world outside the home is affected by “Queen”‘s wavering behaviour. She falls rapidly in intellectual and sentimental infatuation for Sandip. However, this leads her to actions she regrets. Attempting to correct the course of actions set, she sends her brother Amulya to death.

Not directly related to this novel, my personal concern is to investigate historically how this opposition came into being. In this book, patriotism is associated with sentiments, infatuation, sensuality, desire, conquering, lying, radical change, concrete and direct principles, partisanship, for the greater good of the community. Cosmopolitanism is associated with truth, reason, dispassionate reflection, abstract ideas, long-term goals, moral standards, stability, for the good of everyone. Where does this cosmopolitan understanding of patriotism come from? And inversely, where does a patriotic understanding of cosmopolitanism as betrayal of one’s homeland, etc. come from?

My contention is that these positions are discursively situated inside modernity, that they are related to nationalism, and that they appeared in the long aftermath of the French revolution.

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Benhabib, Seyla — The Claims of Culture: Equality and Diversity in the Global Era

Benhabib, Seyla (2002), The Claims of Culture: Equality and Diversity in the Global Era, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Global integration is progressing parallel to social disintegration (separatisms, international terrorism, national revival). “Yet wether [sic] we call the current movements “struggles for recognition” (Charles Taylor, Nancy Fraser, and Axel Honneth), “identity/difference movements,” [sic] (Iris Young, William Connolly), or “movements for cultural rights and multicultural citizenship” (Will Kymlicka), they signal a new political imaginary that propels cultural identity issues in the broadest sense to the forefront of political discourse” (Benhabib, 2002: viii).

Object of the book: “In this book I address the challenges posed to the theory and practice of liberal democracies by the coexistence of these various movements in the same temporal and political space – the “strange multiplicity” or our times, as James Tully has called it (1995)” (Benhabib, 2002: viii).

Argument: the responses to these challenges by contemporary political theory have been prematurely normative, taking identity as a given and not as a practice. Identity should be understood with methodological constructivism.

Benhabib proposes “a deliberative democratic model that permits maximum cultural contestation within the public sphere, in and through the institutions and associations of civil society” (Benhabib, 2002: ix). She defends a constitutional and legal universalism at the level of the polity, and defends legal pluralism and institutional power-sharing through regional and local parliaments.

She distinguishes between democratic theorist and multiculturalist theorist, preferring the former to the latter because multiculturalist theorists tend to maintain the purity and distinctiveness of cultures, which is irreconcilable with democratic and epistemological considerations. Cultures are complex human practices of signification and representation. “Most democratic theorists welcome and support struggles for recognition and identity/difference movements to the degree which they are movements for democratic inclusion, greater social and political justice, and cultural fluidity” (Benhabib, 2002: ix).

“Against attempts by other theorists to sacrifice either cultural politics or normative universalism, I argue that a modernist view of cultures as contested creations of meaning and a universalist view of deliberative democracy complement one another” (Benhabib, 2002: x-xi).

Chapter 1: On the Use and Abuse of Culture

Culture and its permutations:

“The emergence of culture as an arena of intense political controversy is one of the most puzzling aspects of our current condition” (Benhabib, 2002: 1).

Culture has become synonymous with identity. Identity politics draw the state into culture wars.

But culture derives from the Latin root colare, associated with activities of preservation, of tending to and caring for. Romans viewed agriculture as the “cultural” activity par excellence. Western modernity, capitalist commodity economy, rationalized scientific worldview, and bureaucratic administrative control have altered the root meaning. (2).

Romantic period distinguished culture/civilisation (Herder):

Civilisation = material values and practices that are shared with other peoples and do not reflect individuality.

Culture = forms of expression through which the “spirit” of one people, as distinct from others, is voiced.

Totalitarian period created debates on mass culture = superficiality, homogeneity, reproducibility, lack of durability, lack of originality. Does not educate or shape to soul, does not express the spirit of people.

The anthropological egalitarian view of culture denouncing Eurocentric cultural presumptions.

Much contemporary cultural politics today is a mixture of anthropological view of the democratic equality of culture and the Romantic Herderian emphasis on each form’s irreducible uniqueness.

Faulty epistemology of culture, whether conservative or progressive = “reductionist sociology of culture” (Benhabib, 2002: 4):

1) Cultures are clearly delineable wholes

2) Cultures are congruent with population groups and that a noncontroversial description of the culture of a group is possible

3) Even if cultures and groups do not stand in one-to-one correspondence, this is no problem for politics and policy.

Social constructivism and its normative implications

“… I defend social constructivism as a comprehensive explanation of cultural differences and against attempts in normative political theory that reify cultural groups and their struggles for recognition” (Benhabib, 2002: 5). Some multiculturalisms reject cultural essentialism, but not always for the same reasons and not clear epistemology. Benhabib: Narrative view of actions and culture à Observer/participants distinction: observer imposes unity and coherence on cultures as observed entities; participants experience through shared, albeit contested and contestable, narratives + Bhabha distinguishes pedagogical/performative aspects of national narrative, and the two have to fit (Benhabib, 2002: 9). The student of human affairs tries to explain that.

Discourse ethics and multiculturalism

Norms of universal respect and egalitarian reciprocity = guiding lines of human interaction. They must be presupposed in some form for practical discourses (11). “Discourses are procedures of recursive validation [italic in text] through which abstract norms and principles are concretized and legitimized” (Benhabib, 2002: 12). “Practical discourses, in the broadest sense, include moral discourses about universal norms of justice, ethical discourses about forms of the good life, and political-pragmatic discourses about the feasible” (Benhabib, 2002: 12). These are dialogic processes.

Bhabha distinguishes universalist/substitutionalist universalisms (13-14):

Substitutionalist universalism = Kant & Rawls à subject matter of practical discourse is restricted to those principles of a just society, to which rational agents, placed behind the epistemic strictures of a “veil of ignorance”, would agree. Provides a more determinate and concrete content of choice and deliberation. It views individuals as generalized, not as concrete others.

Interactive universalism = all moral beings are potential moral conversation partners, not just rational beings. I can become aware of the otherness of others.

Narrativity and the self

We are born in a web of narratives, or thrown into these. To be and to become a self is to insert oneself into webs of interlocution.

“My approach to the politics of multiculturalism is defined by these theoretical commitments: the discourse theory of ethics; the dialogic and narrative constitution of the self; and the view of discourses as deliberative practices that center not only on norms of action and interaction, but also on negotiating situationally shared understandings across multicultural divides” (Benhabib, 2002: 16).

A dynamic model of identity groups

Contemporary discussion of these issues is often mired in two shortcomings: processes of group formation are not treated dynamically and effort is spent on identifying what a group is; this literature ignores processes through which existing social and cultural cleavages are transformed into political mobilization (17).

The democratic theorist is concerned with the public manifestation of cultural identities in civic spaces; the multiculturalist is interested in classifying and naming groups and then developing normative theories.

Universalist deliberative democracy model (19-20):

1. “egalitarian reciprocity. Members of cultural, religious, linguistic and other minorities must not, in virtue of their membership status, be entitled to lesser degrees of civil, political, economic, and cultural rights than the majority.

2. voluntary self-ascription. In consociationalist or federative multicultural societies, an individual must not be automatically assigned to a cultural, religious, or linguistic group by virtue of his or her birth. An individual’s group membership must permit the most extensive forms of self-ascription and self-identification possible. There will be many cases when such self-identifications may be contested, but the state should not simply grant the right to define and control membership to the group at the expense of the individual; it is desirable that at some point in their adult lives individuals be asked whether they accept their continuing membership in their communities of origin.

3. freedom of exit and association. The freedom of the individual to exit the ascriptive group must be unrestricted, although exit may be accompanied by the loss of certain kinds of formal and informal privileges. However, the wish of individuals to remain group members, even while outmarrying, must not be rejected; accommodations must be found for intergroup marriages and the children of such marriages.”

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Rosenfeld, Sofia — Citizens of Nowhere in Particular: Cosmopolitanism, Writing and Political Engagement in Eighteenth-Century Europe

Work Cited
Rosenfeld, Sophia. “Citizens of Noweher in Particular: Cosmopolitanism, Writing and Political Engagement in Eighteenth-Century Europe.” National Identities 4, no. 1 (2002): 25-43.

Contention of the essay: the development of the conceptual space of political engagement among private subjects cannot be reduced to the creation of national loyalties. A body of literature existed, produced in the 18th century under the amorphous space of the transnational Republic of Letters, in which individuals transformed themselves into political spokesmen by de-situating themselves rhetorically.
These authors “encourage us to rethink our often resolutely presentist assumptions about the connection between geographical or familial rootedness, on the one hand, and the political identity associated with citizenship, on the other.” (27)
“For in the years immediately preceding the French Revolution, before the nation-state had become an entirely hegemonic paradigm even in Western Europe, it appears that the idea of political engagement was not yet necessarily dependent on one’s sense of belonging to a distinctive subgroup of humanity. Rather… public action often depended upon the opposite: deliberate deracination and namelessness on the part of the individual subject” (Rosenfeld 2002, 27).
Roots of participatory citizenship in the context of absolutism
Political decision-making and political expression were the monopoly of kings and their chief advisers. Hence a royal endorsement necessary to the publication of anything. It was especially true when it came to international affairs: the determination of foreign policy, until the outbreak of the French Revolution, was the exclusive prerogative of ministers and heads of state.
Yet, the second half of the 18th century saw a growing number of writers from an expanding range of social background. Especially an increasingly broad range of unofficial francophone literature found its way into circulation across Europe. The intention behind those texts was

“to influence a new entity: trans-European public opinion, a realm of philosophical contestation and, ultimately, political pressure established in good measure by writers themselves. Publication and response became a form of public action, a challenge to the absolute sovereignty of the state. And what these authors sought to communicate were generally not suggestions for improving a particular dynasty’s fortunes externally. Instead, they were alternative and often adversarial blueprints for developing international or global political systems that worked against specific royal ambitions and associated conceptions of society, especially on the part of absolute monarchies” (Rosenfeld 2002, 28).

Some of what the history of ideas have categorised as “peace plans” are famous (Penn, Saint-Pierre, Kant), many others are obscure or footnotes in this history.
What Rosenfeld wants to focus on is not so much the details of the content of such peace plans, but “how their individual authors justified writing these polemics, that is, making themselves into political actors, the precursors of participatory citizens, and intruding upon terrain from which they were, in both principle and practice, supposed to be excluded” (Rosenfeld 2002, 28-29).

“At issue is ultimately the question of authorial self-representation in an era before not only the concept of the nation but also the related vision of the author as public spokesman and participant in the business of rule had assumed the self-evident status that it has today” (Rosenfeld 2002, 29).

“Almost all the authors of these polemics call considerable attention to themselves as individuals. They make no effort to disguise the fact that the words on the page are the product of the minds of single, specific beings, writers, who are conveying their own, assume a distinctly modern, proprietary attitude towards their ideas…” (Rosenfeld 2002, 29).

Yet these writers, in describing themselves, insist on their lack of connections to the sphere of decision-making. Moreover, they forgo the chief marker of identity: the legal name. Many times the works were “anonymous”, although the author’s identity was an open secret. They identified themselves by their unbounded affection for humanity at large, calling themselves “Doctor Man’lover” or “a friend of mankind”. (29) They would also call themselves “simple citizen” or “an isolated human being”. “As the literary critic Thomas Keenan points out, the word ‘human’ has long stood, in contradistinction to proper nouns, as ‘the name of that which would precede geographical divisions and political articulations, of that which is by definition essentially unbordered’” (Rosenfeld 2002, 29).
The authors were both individuals with their own singular political thoughts, and individuals without particular connections to any family, location, history, or status.

“Local and national situatedness were here simultaneously subsumed, though not necessarily rejected, in favour of both a universal identity as a human and a personal one as a political actor” (Rosenfeld 2002, 30).

Methods:
1.    Silence:
Ex: Nouvel essai sur le projet de la paix perpétuelle (Switzerland, 1788) by Antoine de Polier de Saint-Germain.
First, the author leaves off any reference to himself or precise location of the book. Then, he gradually reveals more and more about an alternative aspect of himself: his philosophical orientation and his motivation as a public spokesman on matters of international relations.
2.    Reference to another extra-historical authorial identity:
Ex: République universelle, ou l’Humanité ailée, réunie sous l’Empire de la Raison (André Guillaume Resnier).
During the « Year I » of reason appears the universal Republic. Written by the fictitious « Reinser II de Genève », he established himself as “an alternative moral elite distinguished by its compassion, public mindedness, and dedication to rationality.” (31) He depicts himself as a spokesman for “Reason” and a “martyr for truth”.

“What these texts share is a method of justifying both their production and their contents based on denying the reader’s expectations regarding the author’s familial, local, and even national identity” (Rosenfeld 2002, 31).

Of course these examples were neither unique at the time nor reserved to cosmopolitan themes. “But in the late eighteenth century, the employment of pseudonymous cosmopolitan monikers, in conjunction with expressions of fungible individuality, was especially associated with the publication of transgressive peace plans” (Rosenfeld 2002, 32).
The purpose of pseudonymity
The rhetorical stance of presenting oneself both in one’s singularity as an individual and one’s representativeness as a member of a boundaryless community of humanity served several purposes:
–    “Opened up a space for a new kind of non-nationally-specific political identity and engagement
–    “Rendered feasible a new type of secular political vision outside the related frameworks of both the nation-state and the locality”. (Rosenfeld 2002, 32)
Why?
1.    The uses of pseudonymity in the 18th century Republic of Letters
Primary reason for authorial disguise = practical: protect the writer as vulnerable being (censorship + preserving modesty and dignity/social stigma of publication).
But it did not protect completely. The other reason is that it “could potentially function as a form of liberation and, consequently, empowerment, especially for one who wrote from a marginal position in terms of sex, social status, geography, politics, religion, or some combination thereof” (Rosenfeld 2002, 32).
On the one hand, the author could deviate charges of immodesty upon himself to critics on the content of the writing. On the other, it could entail rhetorical benefits for the author as he/she tried to elevate the value of his public utterances as interventions in the public sphere. “And in the case of the peace plans under consideration here, their authors frequently found that they could use their humanitarian pseudonyms as a foundation for epistemological and moral empowerment for themselves as protocitizens, as well as for their political projects” (Rosenfeld 2002, 33).

2.    The effects of this practice on the transformation of the writer into a thoroughly public actor and an example for his own political theory
“… by explicitly drawing attention to their lack of connections or position, eighteenth-century authors could also confirm their radical autonomy and, hence, impartiality as intellectual voices, the fact that they were not beholden to any particular interest or any kind of received wisdom associated with any one faction” (Rosenfeld 2002, 33).
Ex: Ange Goudar noted that because of his status as an outsider he could consider the world of politics objectively, as a “knowable science”, rather than subjectively as a private matter.

“They could also assume a moral authority, and consequently, privilege for themselves that allowed them to overcome the normal obstacles to public expression and, as private individuals, do and say that to which they would ordinarily not be entitled” (Rosenfeld 2002, 33).

They could then strip kings and princes of their exclusive authority and prerogatives, and take their place to write on the public good of the world’s citizens.
Eurocentricism and francocentricism
The danger of this model of abstract universal human is the “Enlightenment thinkers’ difficulty recognizing and coming to terms with difference and heterogeneity, which is another way of saying their tendency to generalize from their own example” (Rosenfeld 2002, 34):
–    They were all men of considerable social and economic privilege
–    The Western European locus and bias is apparent

“The humanitarian cosmopolitanism of the eighteenth century is, in the end, a distinctive kind of local situatedness and privilege chiefly revelatory of membership in the francophone Republic of Letters” (Rosenfeld 2002, 35).

But very few of these plans project a unitary world state. Most are preserving local differences.

“Certainly, both Enlightenment epistemology and Enlightenment political theory depended heavily upon the idea of a uniform human nature. But attachment to this idea in no way meant that variation among humans was seen as impossible or even undesirable” (Rosenfeld 2002, 35).

Often they include “unquestioned francocentric assumptions about what progress towards modernity should entail” (Rosenfeld 2002, 36). But the more important is that they constitute “early attempts to grapple with the difficult task of balancing universalism and difference” (Rosenfeld 2002, 36).

“As such, they offer us an alternative way of conceptualising the roots of individual political engagement, a model tied exclusively neither to nation-state membership nor to the sentiment of national belonging” (Rosenfeld 2002, 36).

Changing name
At first the peace plans were an alliance among constitutional monarchs recognizing human rights in a pacific confederation. The culture of the Revolution led to plans linked to the idea of the republic understood as a form of government characterized by popular sovereignty, constitutional protections for the universal rights of man. A few revolutionary thinkers even proposed plans for federations of individuals, considered as citizens of the world.
At the same time, antipathy to the social hierarchy and the Church led to replace the name in the public sphere with a moniker emphasizing the individual’s political values or public actions. Those wanting to imagine new configurations beyond the national level continued to find it useful to adopt pseudonyms.
An extreme example of this is Cloots: from Prussian Klootz he Frenchifyed his name into Cloots. From baron von Klootz he adopted simply Cloots. From Jean-Baptiste, he unbaptised himself into Anacharsis, name of an ancient Sythian who left his native land to travel civilized countries in search of broader knowledge. He added “orator of the human race”.
“… it was a way to emphasise [sic] that one was both an individual, a single person free to identify oneself at will, and a public servant, writing (which is to say acting) in the name of and for the sake of the good of humanity alone” (Rosenfeld 2002, 38).

Conclusion
At the same time, the idea of the nation as a community of person grew. In 1795, an anonymous author (thought to be Scipione Piattoli), published a plan based on transnational cooperation referring to himself as “the old cosmopolitan Syrach”: in good measure because his views had become out-of-date.

“These examples have the potential to help us see the teleological and often anachronistic ways in which historians of modern Europe have frequently described the coming-into-existence of the citizen out of a locally and then nationally rooted being. In fact, as it turns out, political engagement did not always follow directly from the development of national identity in distance. The model of the abstract human, stripped of any relationship to any particular form of identification but understood as an individual, also provided a foundation for the emergence of the public actor, at least in the realm of rhetoric, before the era of a triumphant bourgeois liberalism in Europe – a situation which suggests that the history of conceptual globalism, needs, along with nationalism and localism, to be rethought” (Rosenfeld 2002, 39).

“Perhaps the key discovery of the authors of these odd peace plans of the late eighteenth century is that identity can be extremely fluid. After all, one can situate oneself not only locally or nationally but also cosmopolitically in multiple ways simply by manipulating that basic identifier that is one’s name. And it is, in part, as a result of this possibility that private persons first began to imagine something like global citizenship” (Rosenfeld 2002, 39).

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Mortier — Le rêve universaliste de l’orateur du genre humain

Mortier, R. (2000). Le rêve universaliste de l'”Orateur du Genre humain”. In R. Mortier, Les Combats des Lumières (pp. 385-394). Paris: Aux amateurs de livres international.


The Universalist idea was not something new or invented in the eighteenth century. However, the transformation of the feeling of being human into concrete political and social systems is something that appeared in the eighteenth century, with the abbé Castel de Saint-Pierre’s Project of Perpetual Peace (Mortier, 2000: 385). The project was not very ambitious and only projected an arbitrary system by a superior international institution capable of imposing its decisions to the sovereign national institutions. Very interestingly, Rousseau’s protector, Mrs. Dupin, asked him to summarise his voluminous works. Although Rousseau found the project unrealistic, he nevertheless took it as the starting point of his own political reflexion and published an Extract in 1761 (Mortier, 2000).

This project, because it was unrealistic, discouraged for a long time any universalistic political vision. However, the French Declaration of the rights of Man and of the citizen renewed the Universalist ideal as it was directed to humanity in general.

Cloots was very impressed by this and made his mission to make the French revolution a model of political organisation to the world because of its principles and its example (Mortier, 2000: 388).

In February 1792 he published La République universelle, ou Adresse aux tyrannicides, par Anacharsis Cloots, orateur du genre humain. He does not believe in a federative system. He proposes a radical unification by a process of spontaneous adhesion (Mortier, 2000: 389). Believing in liberal economics, unity should prevail because of the advantages of being in such a “wide society”. Every man should benefit from the effects of the declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen, and for this we should build a universal republic on the ruins of the thrones. The will is one, action is one, because interest is one (Mortier, 2000: 390).

The republic may be built in several steps though, starting from France, diffusing through Europe. It is a gallocentric universalism (Mortier, 2000: 390). But it is gallocentric because France and Paris are the centres of freedom. Of course, everyone is sceptical towards any “imperialist” expansion from a particular country, even if it is for “freedom”. All things being equal, one can think of contemporary debate about “eurocentrism” and the western values dominating.

The way to achieve this is through propaganda and not violence, freedom is a plant that grows on every soil and if people are ignorant but free, minds should mature through books (Mortier, 2000: 392).

A unique soverign, universal will rise, he prophetises, “one common interest, one common law! One reason, one nation!” (Mortier, 2000: 392).

Cloots was not a realist, and he did not care about the political realities of his time. He made powerful enemies, chiefly Robespierre, who sent him to the guillotine 24 March 1794.

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Fink, Gonthier Louis — “Cosmopolitisme” in Dictionnaire européen des lumières

Work Cited

Fink, Gonthier Louis (1997) “Cosmopolitisme.” In Dictionnaire européen des lumières, edited by Michel Delon, 277-279. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

« Le XVIIIe siècle est le siècle du cosmopolitisme » (L. Réau). (277)

«  En 1690, le Dictionnaire universel de Furetière, qui ne connaît pas encore le terme « cosmopolite », le définit indirectement à l’article « Patrie », en se référant à la tradition stoïcienne : « Un philosophe est partout en sa patrie. » Pour le Dictionnaire de Trévoux (1721) un cosmopolite est un « citoyen de l’univers », « un homme qui nulle part n’est étranger ». Cette définition repose sur l’universalité de la nature humaine. Mais s’intéresser à l’homme en général n’implique pas nécessairement ouverture sur le monde, car cela peut signifier qu’on oublie la diversité du genre humain ; et la perception de l’altérité peut soit impliquer la tolérance, voire une fraternité active, soit conduire à une vue manichéenne, traduire aussi bien une indifférence sceptique que la curiosité ou la soif d’exotisme. Quand le Dictionnaire de l’Académie française (1762) déclare qu’un cosmopolite est « celui qui n’adopte point de patrie, […] n’est pas un bon citoyen », il reflète la méfiance que suscitait alors le cosmopolitisme. » (Fink 1997, 277)

Du narcissisme au cosmopolitisme

« Grâce à l’hégémonie politique et culturelle de la France de Louis XIV et même de Louis XV, Versailles et Paris devinrent « le modèle des nations étrangères ». » (Fink 1997, 277)

Cependant, l’Europe française qui reposait sur « l’universalité » de la culture et de la langue française (Rivarol), ne relève que partiellement du cosmopolitisme :

  • Parce que les tenants du classicisme français confondaient leur modèle et l’universalisme, ce qui leur permettait de juger les autres nations selon leurs critères. Narcissisme français et curiosité pour l’étranger.
  • Parce que l’universalisme était amputé de sa dimension historique : en admettant que les mentalités étaient conditionnées par le climat et l’histoire, il légitimait l’opposition entre civilisés et barbares.

Ainsi au début le XVIIIe n’était guère plus cosmopolite que le XVIIe.

Ce sont les journaux qui rendaient compte de ce qui étaient digne de la curiosité des Gens de lettre. La république des lettres élargissait l’horizon national de ses membres.

« Tout comme Bayle, Beausobre déclara : « Le sage doit être Cosmopolyte, […] il ne doit avoir de patrie que la ou règnent le bon sens et la raison, et de compatriotes, que ceux qui, comme lui, s’attachent à la recherche du vrai » (Mercure de France, 1750). » (Fink 1997, 277)

Les revues savantes trouvèrent leur prolongement dans les hebdomadaires moraux adressés aux classes moyennes.

Le cosmopolitisme se marque par le « Grand Tour » des aristocrates voyageant en Europe.

Confrontations avec d’autres civilisations

La documentation mise à disposition sur les autres pays étaient importante.

On confrontait l’Europe avec la diversité du genre humain. « Le changement saute aux yeux dès que l’on compare le Discours sur l’histoire universelle de Bossuet, confiné au monde judéo-chrétien et classique, avec l’Essai sur les mœurs de Voltaire, qui, brisant le carcan de la chronologie biblique, commence son histoire universelle avec la Chine » (Fink 1997, 278)

Considérées comme accessoires les différences entre les hommes parurent alors à certains essentielles. S’opposent deux visions, toutes deux eurocentriques :

  1. Sauvage barbare
  2. Mythe du bon sauvage (le barbare est l’homme civilisé)

« Avec le Discours sur les sciences et les arts de J.-J. Rousseau le changement de paradigme devint effectif : non la civilisation mais la nature devait servir de critère » (Fink 1997, 278).

La Chine obligea l’Europe à reconnaître une autre civilisation. Sensibles à son ancienneté, les jésuites en gommèrent l’altérité, estompant les différences entre confucianisme et christianisme.

« Le cosmopolitisme du XVIIIe siècle eut au fond deux faces : la curiosité pour ce qui est autre, exotique, avec au mieux l’acceptation de l’altérité, ce dont les jésuites ont donné l’exemple ; par ailleurs, expression de l’insatisfaction au sein de l’Europe, l’autre est proposé comme modèle avec, en contraste, la critique de la patrie pour l’inciter à faire des réformes, procédé dont se sont servis Voltaire, Raynal et bien d’autres philosophes » (Fink 1997, 279).

Dans les Lettres Persanes, Montesquieu propose une troisième voie en contre-pied du narcissisme et de l’ethnocentrisme : faire observer les gestes de la France par un étranger qui dans une optique naïve trouve étrange ce qui paraît familier à l’autochtone et démasque les absurdités et incohérences. Genre satirique qui apprit à l’Europe à relativiser ses critères.

Apogée et crise du cosmopolitanisme

Favorisé par la franc-maçonnerie qui appelait à former une grande république universelle basée sur l’égalité et la fraternité, le cosmopolitisme fut à la mode entre 1730 et 1760. Selon Helvétius, plus les nations devenaient éclairées, plus elles s’ouvraient les unes aux autres (De l’Esprit, 1758).

Critique de Rousseu, Palissot et de Belloy.. Lessing déplore que le cosmopolitisme efface les différences nationales. Herder, Wieland et Kant se distancèrent du csomopolitisme trop politique de certains encyclopédistes pour plaider une évolution lente et organique dans le concert des nations européennes.

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O’Brien, Karen — Narratives of Enlightenment

9780521465335Introduction: cosmopolitanism, narrative, history

Cosmopolitan history:

“‘Cosmopolitanism’ is no longer a term much favoured by intellectual historians: as an idea, it seems to lack intellectual content; as a category of political thought, it has no referent. [footnote: “the last investigation of this idea was Thomas J. Schlereth]. The term is occasionally invoked by literary and cultural historians of the eighteenth century in connection with neoclassical notions of taste, the language of bourgeois political aspirations or aristocratic consumer preferences. [footnote: for example Gerald Newman The Rise of English Nationalism 1987; J. Pappas “The Revolt of the Philosophes against Aristocratic Tastes”, Culture and Revolution by Dukes and Dunkley, 1990]. I have revived the term for the purposes of this study because it simultaneously encapsulates an attitude of detachment towards national prejudice (often described as an ‘impartial’ or ‘philosophical’ attitude in other studies of these historians), and an intellectual investment in the idea of a common European civilisation” (O’Brien 1997, 2).

Voltaire understood this civilisation in cultural rather than political terms. Voltaire mounted a cosmopolitan critique of his own national history (siècle de Louis XIV, siècle de Louis XV) which he re-evaluated in his general history of the world Essai sur les moeurs.

“Cosmopolitanism is thus a point of orientation for these historians, and, frequently, an impetus to irony at the expense of the partialities and accidents which lie behind those reassuring stories which nations tell to themselves. It is also, in the work of some eighteenth-century historians, an identity-prescription for their readers: Europe, it is implied, must remain part of the structure of their self-awareness as French, British or American subjects or citizens. (3)

“A national self, it is often held, needs a negative counter-image of the ‘other’ to give it definition and psychological purchase… Yet, as I shall argue, such straightforward antinomies of patriotism and cosmopolitanism appear to dissolve when tested against the work of some of the eighteenth century’s most prestigious and popular national historians” (O’Brien 1997, 4)

18th-century historians wrote in a fundamentally literary way. “The rhetorical model, in particular, helps to explain the nature of the presence of eighteenth-century historians in their own texts both as political persuaders and orchestrators of their readers’ aesthetic responses. History was also understood in this period, in related but non-rhetorical ways, as a form of spectacle designed to awaken the imagination and stimulated the sensibility.” (7)

National contexts:

“The cosmopolitan approach to questions of national history in the writings of Voltaire, Hume, Robertson, Gibbon and Ramsay updated and put a new polemical spin on older, humanist notions of the European inheritance of a common cultural identity from the ancient Roman world (the translatio studii)” (12-13).

“My chapter on Voltaire explores the literary and ideological backgrounds to these innovations, and explains how Voltaire’s rejection of traditional dynastic and public law-based discourses of French nationality opened the way for a new critical and cosmopolitan reading of French and, later, global history according to aesthetic rather than political norms.” (13)

voltaire1Voltaire’s neoclassical poetics of history

“As meta-historical investigations of the cognitive problems of retelling the past, they contribute something to contemporary French philosophical debate… It was the thematic concerns of Voltaire’s histories, which centred upon the evolution and existence of a unique, common European civilisation, that particularly attracted an international readership.” (22)

At the time, history was depreciated by sceptics or Pyrrhonians rejecting Descartes’ rationalist solutions.

“Voltaire’s solution to the poverty of national history and to the philosophical depreciation of history was… to effect a closer rapprochement between history and literature” (26) “By arranging his histories within identifiable literary structures…, Voltaire hoped to annex similar prestige to history. Voltaire also imported from neoclassical theory the notion of ‘vraisemblance’ which encapsulated the moral and aesthetic requirement that literature should treat only of the natural and probable, and never of the fantastic, trivial or debased.” (26) “Voltaire also embraced the ethical function performed by neoclassical literature; like poetry, history must assert civilised standards, and harmonise moral, social and aesthetic values.”

The narrative of Europe

The Essai sur les mœurs et l’esprit des nations“explores the contradictory relationship between the arts, the philosophical spirit, and the evolution of civilisation in Europe. Moreover, it attempts to do so in ways which will erode national partialities… Despite its declared ambition to supply an overview of the development of civilisation, the Essai is essentially an agglomeration of a number of national histories held together by a (sometimes fragile) narrative thread… The unity of these national histories, Voltaire explains in the summary ‘Résumé de toute cette histoire’ (1756), is to be found, not at the level of master narrative, but in the pre-cognitive drive to civilisation inherent in all men and women:

Au milieu de ces saccagements et de ces destructions que nous observons dans l’espace de neuf cent années, nous voyons un amour de l’ordre qui anime en secret le genre humain, et qui a prévenu sa ruine totale. C’est un des ressorts de la nature, qui reprend toujours sa force : c’est lui qui a formé le code des nations. (II, 808: 1756, XVI, 149)

Man’s creative love of order, which has affinities with the historian’s own artistic quest for form in variety, fashions and sustains the delicate and slow process of civilisation: ‘Il est aisé de … conclure … avec quelle lenteur la raison humaine se forme’ (II, 87: 1756, XII, 315).” (46)

“Avec quelle lenteur, avec quelle difficulté le genre humain se civilise, et la société se perfectionne !” (II, 724 : 1756, XIV, 231) 46)

« L’empire de la coutume est bien plus vaste que celui de la nature ; il s’étend sur les mœurs, sur tous les usages ; il répand la variété sur la scène de l’univers : la nature y répand l’unité ; elle établit partout un petit nombre de principes invariables : ainsi le fonds est partout le même, et la culture produit des fruits divers. (1756, II, 810) (47)

In Voltaire’s account, an Enlightenment narrrative on the rise of Europe, the Church is playing a role in the civilising process “on sentait qu’elle … était faite pour donner des leçons aux autres”) and an intermediate power in the states where it operates : « un frein qui retienne les souverains » (I, 492, 529 : 1756, XI, 263) (48-49)

A large part is left to non-Western accounts, particularly China, and Japan.

“Nos peuples occidentaux ont fait éclater dans toutes ces découvertes une grande supériorité d’esprit et de courage sur les notions orientales… Mais la nature leur avait donné sur nous un avantage qui balance tous les nôtres : c’est qu’elles n’avaient nul besoin de nous, et que nous avions besoin d’elles. (II, 325 : 1756, XIII, 207)”

The East is essential to the self-understanding of the West.

Revisions

“As he retouched the Essai, Voltaire became more preoccupied with the ironies of causality in history, and less interested in its (ultimately relatively civilised) outcome. Narrative connectives are traded for a satirical sense of necessity. The rudimentary causal coherence, which Voltaire originally found in the history of the world, starts to look like a Panglossian fantasy. Voltaire now sees only an unpredictable game of consequences (the word he uses to convey this is ‘enchaînement’). François I’s death of the new world disease, syphilis, is presented, in 1761, as an example of this ironically treacherous ‘enchaînement’:

C’est ainsi que les évènements son enchaînés: un pilote génois donne un univers à l’Espagne ; la nature a mis dans les îles de ces climats lointains un poison qui infecte les sources de la vie ; et il faut qu’un roi de France en périsse. (II, 201)

The term ‘enchaînement’ conveys an idea of human helplessness in the face of meaningless fatality : ‘il paraît un enchaînement fatal des causes qui entrainent les hommes comme les vents poussent les sables et les flots’ (II, 784: 1756, XIV, 319). The use of the term ‘enchaînement’ also carries with it an indirect attack on Catholic providential history of the kind most famously exemplified by Bossuet’s Discours sur l’histoire universelle (1681). Bossuet uses the term ‘enchaînement’ to denote the divine order in which God simulates logical cause-effect relationships in order to give man a sense of the moral intelligibility of the world. Or as Bossuet phrases it:

Ce mesme Dieu qui a fait l’enchaisnement de l’Univers … a voulu aussi que le cours des choses humaines eust sa suite et ses proportions.

Voltaire’s use of the word ‘enchainement’ suggests a parodic reworking of theocentric universal history. Bossuet’s God, by acting directly upon human passions, produces a historical order identical to the providential order, whereas Voltaire’s ‘enchaînement’ reveals a moral sequence discontinuous with or in ironic relation to the historical one.” (52-53).

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Hazard, Pierre – Cosmopolite

jean-baptiste_van_mour_006Historiographie du mot “cosmopolite.”

Hazard, Pierre (1930) “Cosmopolite.” In Mélanges d’histoire littéraire générale et comparée offerts à Fernand Baldensperger, 354-364. Paris: Libraire ancienne Honoré Champion.

Résumé:

Apparition au XVIe siècle : 1560 Guillaume Postel De la République des Turcs et, là où l’occasion s’offrera,

des mœurs et des lois de tous muhamedistes, par Guillaume Postel, cosmopolite. L’auteur veut enrichir les

connaissances du roi dauphin sur les turcs :

« Pour autant donc qu’on ne peut, venant à l’effet de la concorde du monde (pour la paix universelle,

duquel je me nomme Cosmopolite, désirant le voir accordé, sous la Couronne de France), aucunement

parler par raison avec l’ennemy, sans congnoistre tout son estat comme luy ; et que la plus grande

puissance soit en religion, soit en armes, qui donc fut, est l’Ismaélique ; et qu’entre les Ismaéliques,

c’est la Turquesque, je vous en donne ici la congnoissance ». (354)

Henri Estienne s’en sert sous la forme cosmopolitain dans ses Deux dialogues du nouveau langage

françois italinizé (1578) : il l’oppose à ceux qui dépassent le cercle tropetriot des gens de cour :

« Vous vous accoutumerez tant à ce jargon de la cour, que quand vous la voudrez quitter,

vous ne pourrez pas quitter pareillement son jargon: mais serez en danger d’estre en risée à

plusieurs cosmopolitains, qui ne vivent nine parlent courtisanesquement ; et toutefois savent

comment il faut vivre et comment il faut parler. »

Au XVIIe siècle le mot apparaît par détours : Lenglet du Fresnoy dans son Histoire de la philosophie

hermétique nous raconte les aventures d’un Anglais, ou Écossais, Alexandre Sethon ou Sidon le Cosmopolite.

Après la mort de Sethon, Michel Sendivogius fit imprimer à Prague le traité du Cosmopolite sur ses papiers :

Traité du cosmopolite, où, après avoir donné une idée d’une société de philosophes, on explique dans plusieurs

lettres de cet auteur la théorie et la pratique des vérités hermétiques.

Il ne s’agit que d’une apparition isolée et le dictionnaire de l’Académie de 1694 n’enregistre pas le mot. Il est

curieux que le mot apparaisse au moment le moins cosmopolite de notre histoire. « Quand on connaîtra mieux

le monde de l’hermétisme, et toute cette vie obscure qui ne cesse de s’agiter dans les profondeurs de la conscience

européenne et française, on découvrira sans doute de nombreux apports, non moins surprenants »

(Hazard 1930, 356).

Sa fortune date du XVIIIe siècle.

Trévoux dans son dictionnaire de 1721 à l’article cosmopolitain, cosmopolitaine :

“Cosmopolita, cosmopolitanus. On dit quelquefois en badinant, pour signifier un home qui n’a pas de

demeure fixe, ou bien un homme qui n’a pas de demeure fixe, ou bien un homme qui nulle part n’est

étranger. Il vient de χάσμας, le monde, et πόλις, ville, et signifie un homme dont tout le monde est la ville

ou la patrie. Un ancien philosophe étant interrogé d’où il était répondit : je suis un cosmopolite, c’est-à-dire

citoyen de l’univers. L’auteur inconnu d’un excellent traité de chimie, intitulé Lumen chymicum, s’est donné

le nom de cosmopolitain.

qu’on dît cosmopolitain » (Hazard 1930, 356).

On dit ordinairement cosmopolite; et comme on dit néapolitain et constantinopolitain, l’analogie demanderait

L’édition de 1771 fait prévaloir l’usage de « cosmopolite » sur « cosmopolitain ». L’allusion au philosophe est Diogène

tel que rapporté par Diogène Laerce.

Si le mot a désormais conquis droit de cité ce n’est pas qu’il apparaisse avec fréquence.

fougeretcosmopolitanIl faut tenir grand compte dans l’histoire du mot et des idées qu’il exprime le livre publié en 1751 par Fougeret de

Montbron Le cosmopolite ou le citoyen du monde. L’ouvrage eut un succès, et Byron l’utilisera plus tard. Voyageur,

il devient cosmopolite par pessimisme et scepticisme. « Un cosmopolite se pourra être un simple dilettante ; mais

aussi un blasé, voire un cynique, qui dédaigne de s’attacher à quelque terre que ce soit, parce qu’il méprise tout

l’univers » (Hazard 1930, 358).

Mais par une interprétation différente, et que l’on voit naître plus tard, un cosmopolite peut être une grande âme,

assez généreuse pour choisir l’humanité toute entière. Ainsi Jean-Jacques Rousseau dans son Discours sur

l’origine de l’inégalité parmi les hommes (1755) :

“Le droit civil étant ainsi devenu la règle commune des citoyens, la loi de nature n’eut plus lieu qu’entre

les diverses sociétés où, sous le nom de droit des gens, elle fut tempérée par quelques conventions tacites

pour rendre le commerce possible et suppléer à la commisération naturelle, qui, perdant de société à société

presque toute la force qu’elle avait d’homme à homme, ne réside plus que dans quelques grandes âmes

cosmopolites qui franchissent les barrières imaginaires qui séparent les peuples et qui, à l’exemple de l’Être

souverain qui les a créées, embrassent tout le genre humain dans leur bienveillance.” (Hazard 1930, 358-359).

« On peut fixer à 1760 et aux années suivantes le temps où les Français se plaisent à répéter le mot, en lui donnant

tantôt un sens péjoratif, tantôt un sens élogieux, et en l’enrichissant de quelques nuances supplémentaires »

(Hazard 1930, 359). Rousseau change d’avis, peut-être parce que le cosmopolite est adopté par les encyclopédistes.

Le mot n’est pas admis dans les 2e (1718), 3e (1740), édition du dictionnaire de l’Academie qui l’accepte dans la

4e (1762) :

“Cosmopolite. S. m. Celui qui n’adopte point de patrie. Un cosmopolite n’est pas un bon citoyen »

(Hazard 1930, 360).

1762 : Lemercier de la Rivière Ordre naturel et essentiel des libertés politiques :

« Ce décroissement sera d’autant plus prompt, que l’industrie est cosmopolite (t. II, p. 518). Ce terme de

cosmopolite ne doit pas être regardé comme une injure ; je parle ici des choses, et non des personnes, de

la profession du commerçant et point du tout de ceux qui l’exercent (p. 563). » (360).

En 1798 elle ajoute à cette même définition la mention « citoyen du monde ».

Les Philosophes, comédie en trois actes 1760 :

« Cydalise :

Monsieur Dortidius, dit-on quelques nouvelles ?

Dortidius :

Je ne m’occupe point des rois, de leurs querelles ;

Que me fait le succès d’un siège ou d’un combat ?

Je laisse à nos oisifs ces affaires d’État.

Je m’embarasse peu du paus que j’habite :

Le véritable sage est un cosmopolite. » (359)

Rousseau dans Émile, I : « Défiez-vous de ces cosmopolites qui vont chercher au loin dans leurs livres des

devoirs qu’ils dédaignent de remplir autour d’eux. »

L’Anglois à Paris. Le Cosmopolisme, publié à Londres…. (1770) par V. D. Musset Pathay : « Ce cosmopolite

n’aspire nullement à nos honneurs littéraires ; son objet est rempli s’il contribue à maintenir l’intelligence entre

des nations moins alliées qu’ennemies, et qui pourroient s’aimer autant qu’elles se craignent et s’estiment ». (361)

La révolution l’utilise et il devient le titre d’un journal, de décembre 1791 à 1792 : Le Cosmopolite, journal

historique, politique, littéraire.

Seul jusqu’ici l’auteur de L’Anglois à Paris avait risqué l’expression « cosmopolisme ». Louis Sébastien Mercier

le reprend dans sa Néologie, ou vocabulaire des mots nouveaux, a renouveler, ou pris dans des acceptions nouvelles. An IX-1801 :

“Cosmopolisme. Il faut aimer un lieu; l’oiseau lui-même, qui a en partage le domaine des airs, affectionne

tel creux d’arbre ou de rocher. Celui qui est atteint de cosmopolisme est privé des plus doux sentiments

qui appartiennent au cœur de l’homme.

Cosmopoliter. Parcourir l’univers.”

Qui croirait que l’on peut exercer à Paris le Cosmopolisme, encore mieux que dans le reste de l’univers ?

Sous sa plume apparait pour la première fois l’expression cosmopolitisme littéraire : lire les grands auteurs étrangers.

Il révèle la Jeanne d’Arc de Schiller.

Mais le mot déplait déjà à l’Empereur. Après 1815, le mot se rencontre partout.

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Avenel’s biography of Anacharsis Cloots

Avenel, Georges (1865), Anacharsis Cloots: L’orateur du genre humain, Paris : Librairie internationale.

cloots01This is one of the very first biography existing on this not so well-known history character of the French Revolution, Anacharsis Cloots. The merit of this book is its weakness: the tone in which it is written. The author is writing in a romantic apologetic tone, which hampers a reflective and critical appraisal of Cloot’s writings and actions. On the other hand, it blows life into a colourful character with an original and synthesising thought. And what a life! Until it was cut short by the revolutionary guillotine, his Prussian origins causing him suspicions of espionage and conspiracy against the Revolution.

Summary abstracts:

Cloots, away from France for some time, came back in 1789 and arrived in Paris 4 August. He saw the national assembly and was taken by enthusiasm. He saw in it the real ecumenical assembly, presided by common sense that will eliminate all the canons of the so-called universal conciliabules (Avenel, 1865: 131).

He claimed that the Assembly should be in Paris, and not in Versailles, “the glory of the eighteenth century is to have created the city” (Avenel, 1865: 137). Other were opposed because the country would not accept Parisian law. He answered “you will all accept it, you, France, and the Universe. Paris is the capital-city of the globe.” (Avenel, 1865: 138)

22 May 1790 a decree by the Assembly gave the nation the right to declare war and peace. Cloots acclaimed this decree because it was signifying the end of the secrecy of alliances in cabinets, of Westphalian treaties and this kind of diplomacy (Avenel, 1865: 175). Paradoxically (for our contemporary eyes) it is the idea of the nation that gave him the idea of the ideal of solidarity of people: if people of the French provinces could unite to form a French nation, calling themselves “brothers,” why not the peoples of the world?

The Parisian commune decreed 5 June 1790 to ask the Assembly for a Parisian federation of France on the Bastille Day 14 July 1790. This event made Cloots dream of a Parisian federation not only of all France but of the whole universe. He wanted to make the same demand but of humankind, including refugees of all countries who had been proscribed from the city (Avenel, 1865: 175-176).

This is what he did, quite famously, on 19 June, Day of the anniversary of the “serment du Jeu de Paume,” “Embassy of humankind,” when he entered the Assembly, or the “ecumenical council of reason”, with a delegation representing humankind, and him being its orator (Avenel, 1865: 177). They were 36 representing “humanity”: Englishmen, Prussians, Sicilians, Dutchmen, Russians, Poles, Germans, Swedes, Italians, Spaniards, peoples from some of the French provinces, Indians, Arabs and Chadians.

He declared that the party on Bastille Day will not only be the one of Frenchmen but also the one of Humankind. The wakening of the French people has been heard away and has awakened other peoples from a long slavery. The wisdom of the decrees voted by the children of France give troubles to despots and hope for nations. Sovereignty resides in the people, but the people is everywhere under the control of despots who consider themselves sovereigns. (Avenel, 1865: 183-184).

Baron Menou answered to him that he proved that all other nations equally own the progress one nation makes in philosophy and the knowledge of human rights. Therefore, the civic national party shall include any free man who wants to join.

From then on is the nickname “Orator of humankind”. Cloots explains that an orator of humankind is “a man penetrated by love for human dignity;  an orator with a scorching love for freedom and who inflame with horror against tyrants; it is a man who, after having received the sanction of his universal apostolate inside the constituting body of the universe, only devotes himself to the free defence of all the million slaves…” He will exile himself from his native land to stay in the capital of independence. His mission will only come to an end when oppressors of the humankind will be overthrown. (Avenel, 1865: 188-189)

He changed his first name Jean-Baptiste because of its Christian origin into Anacharsis, the name of a young Greek philosopher, originally a Scythe who travelled from North to educate himself in Attic and Ionia. He also Frenchifyed his surname as a tribute to France, the country in which freedom was born and from where it should be spread to the world.

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Bélissa, Marc: Les patriotes européens et l’ordre républicain cosmopolitique 1795-1802

9782915596106fsBélissa analyses the conquests made by the new French Republic in Italy (an IV-V), Switzerland (an VI-VII), Holland (an III), and Belgium (an III-IV). These countries are called “sister-Republics.” Patriots in these “sister-Republics” are European militants and support the French Republic, at first, in its fight against monarchical Europe (91).
These patriots have conscious to be part of a “republican order” of free peoples, thought of as the first “truly European political, social and cultural project” (92). This project must realise the cosmopolitan imperative of the revolution: a peaceful order based on the rights of nations against tyranny (92).
In the first days of conquests, numerous voices advise to behave as occupant armies and seize everything possible (93). To justify France’s domination over Belgium and Holland, a brutal vision of law is expressed: the peoples are incapable of revolutionising themselves; they have no autonomy or Enlightenment (93). The Republic offers them rational administration and the end of archaic and feudal institutions; order and progress justifying domination (93). Moreover, France cannot let nations escape her orbit and risk an ingratitude characteristic to all peoples (93). “… the independence of the peoples must always be under control to stay compatible with the prosperity and power of the French Republic” (94).

“Republicanism is thus conceived not as an ethical and cosmopolitan model but as an institutional administrative structure and universalisable under the direction of the French power” (94).

The Directoire is then putting itself in a paradoxical situation of putting these republics in the impossibility to defend the European order by refusing local free and revolutionary republicanism (94).
Still the rhetoric of the liberation of peoples does not disappear under the Directoire and all republicans consider that France must aid to the propagation of the principles of property and liberty (95). But to free the peoples does not necessarily mean to respect the free expression of their sovereignty (95).
France wants to propagate the principles of the revolution, but does not want to have revolutions. It is a republican order that she wants to encourage, a “Republic without revolution” (96). In order to achieve this objective, France treat the republics as “executives” and not “partners”, and does not hesitate to make alliances with princes and kings against the republics to achieve this order (97).
The project for a republican order under the Directoire is thus not a federation as the enlightened philosophers conceived, but an hegemony, dominating without any institutional compensation (97).
Bonaparte’s coup-d’Etat was at first well received by the republics, as putting an end to the instrumentalisation achieved by the Directoire. However, soon it will be obvious that the revolution and France are no longer a universalist reference for humanity (105).

—–

WORK CITED
Bélissa, Marc (2005) “Les patriotes européens et l’ordre républicain cosmopolitique 1795-1802.” In Cosmopolitismes, patriotismes: Europe et Amériques 1773-1802, edited by Marc Bélissa and Bernard Cottret, 91-107. Rennes: Les Perséides.

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Dédéyan: le cosmopolitisme européen sous la révolution et l’empire

Dédéyan, Charles (1976) Le cosmopolitisme européen sous la Révolution et l’Empire. 2 vols. Paris: Société d’édition d’enseignement supérieur.

sabine_womenOne of the rare books of intellectual history about cosmopolitanism in Europe. Written in French, it is focusing on the periods immediately after the Enlightenment: the French Revolution and the first Empire under Napoléon Bonaparte. It is interesting and worth reading for students of cosmopolitanism in two respects. First, it acknowledges the apparition of the word ‘cosmopolitanism’ in French in 1863. The date is very interesting because it is probably not coincidental. My contention is that cosmopolitanism appeared as a conscious idea described by a word only because nationalism became socially embedded. Nationalism constructed an opposite — cosmopolitanism — even though nationalism and cosmopolitanism were originally one and the same before and during the revolution. Second, it is a good introduction to several major European authors and their thought in cosmopolitan terms.

However, the books starts with no definition of ‘cosmopolitanism’ and accepts the historically given concept of opposition to nationalism.

Here follows a summary of some of the main elements concerning cosmopolitanism in France.

Guillaume Postel dans sa République des Turcs a employé pour la première fois en 1560 le mot cosmopolite, que Robert Estienne a introduit sous la forme cosmopolitain. Le mot cosmopolitisme n’existe que depuis 1863. Cependant, on n’a pas attendu cette date pour faire acte de cosmopolitisme : ne pas s’enfermer dans son pays, ne pas limiter ses amitiés et inimitiés à ses compatriotes (Erasme, Montaigne, Sir Philip Sidney, au XVIe, Descartes, Grotius, Saint-Evremond ou Pierre Bayle au XVIIe). (3)

C’est au 18eme siècle que ce cosmopolitanisme va devenir plus général et plus littéraire par la vie des salons et les voyages des gens du monde. Mais le mouvement date du XVIIe. (4)

La France aide à l’épanouissement du cosmopolitisme en tournant ses regards vers l’étranger, avec son prestige européen, et grâce à sa langue universellement répandue. Beaucoup d’œuvres étrangères se propagent en Europe grâce à leurs traductions françaises. (4-5) La France et Paris en particulier deviennent le centre de la vie culturelle. (5-13)

Les cosmopolites marquants

Suard

Cosmopolite littéraire de l’ancien régime.

Rivarol

rivarol_antoine1Discours sur l’Universalité de la Langue française : « Ce qui n’est pas clair n’est pas français ». Un auteur étranger traduit en français a sa pensée clarifiée et expliquée avec précision. Le français est fait pour le commerce des idées et la conversation. Il a « la probité de son génie ». Par son caractère rationnel, social, sa précision, le français n’est pas seulement national, il a une vocation cosmopolite et humaine. (280)

Il approfondira ses idées dans le Discours préliminaire et le Prospectus.

Il laisse après sa mort un opuscule inédit : Souveraineté du peuple.

Chênedollé

Les idées philosophiques et politiques

Les idées philosophiques :

1. Le kantisme

Face à l’ancienne philosophie se dresse le criticisme.

2. L’éclectisme

Les milieux cosmopolites ont une sorte d’éclectisme

3. La pensée maistrienne

Joseph de Maistre veut l’union de la science et de la foi.

« … sous l’influence des occultistes, des illuminés, des théosophes de la fin du XVIIIe siècle, comme sous l’influence de philosophies plus constructives, le cosmopolitisme fait une place importante aux formes irrationnelles de la pensée, sans que les divergences cessent d’être profondes, d’un centre à l’autre, d’un homme à l’autre. » (609).

Les idées politiques

1. Diversité des idées politiques

En littérature deux groupes de cosmopolites se sont distincts : les pro et les anti. On se brouille quand à l’attitude à avoir face à la révolution : restauration ou non.

Portalis dans une lettre du 23 septembre 1799 : « Il ne s’agit pas uniquement de rétablir, il faut régénérer, il faut s’occuper des hommes encore plus que des choses et créer pour ainsi dire un nouveau peuple. » (610)

Montlosier : Vues sommaires sur les moyens de paix pour la France, pour l’Europe, pour les émigrés.

Dédéyan discusses primarily the opposition between monarchists and constituants.

Bertrand de Molleville dans ses Mémoires secrets témoigne de sa méfiance à l’égard des institutions anglaises : « les climats d’Angleterre et de France, les mœurs et le caractère des deux nations sont absolument opposés, et le bon sens indique que les lois doivent, pour être bonnes, s’adapter à ces nuances. » (611)

2. Les idées de Bonald

louis_de_bonaldRéfute Montesquieu et Rousseau en s’inspirant de Leibnitz. 1796 : Théorie du pouvoir.

Contre Montesquieu : C’est du mot constitution qu’il part et pour lui le mot constitution est « ce qui fait la substance d’un corps ». « L’homme ne peut donc pas plus donner une constitution à la société religieuse ou politique qu’il ne peut donner la pesanteur aux corps, ou l’étendue à la matière. » (612-13) Libre à Montesquieu de faire des inventaires et de voir les différences : c’est une conception « végétale ».

3. L’originalité de Mounier

jean-joseph_mounier1795 Adolphe ou principes élémentaires de politique et résultats de la plus cruelle des expériences : combat les fausses maximes du contrat social.

Distinction entre sauvages et civilisés, mais l’état de barbarie peut toujours revenir. (614-615).

Propriété individuelle est préconisé, mais les riches auront un devoir envers les pauvres.

Il limite la souveraineté du peuple dans son origine : « Lorsqu’on affirme que la souveraineté dans son origine émane du consentement du peuple, on exprime une vérité de la plus grande évidence, mais d’une manière qui la rend susceptible d’une fausse interprétation. Au lieu de parler du consentement du peuple, il serait plus exact de parler de celui des premiers facteurs du corps social. Ils ne pouvaient être qu’un petit nombre puisque sans avoir encore des chefs, ils étaient parvenus à s’entendre et à partager la même résolution. » (615)

La souveraineté ainsi limitée ne peut être maintenue que dans ces limites. Il y a des hommes qui sont en dehors du suffrage et il ne faut pas y faire accéder une « multitude aveugle ». De là vient l’idée du suffrage censitaire au XIXe siècle. (615)

L’égalité entre hommes n’existe pas, elle ne peut être entière et parfaite que pour les droits de sécurité et de sûreté.

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On Nussbaum, cosmopolitanism and patriotism (and nationalism)

Martha C. Nussbaum, professor at University of Chicago Law School, published in 1994 an article praising a “cosmopolitan stoic education” over a “national education” that started debates in the English speaking world about cosmopolitanism. The article is a reaction against Richard Rorty and Sheldon Hackney, and is therefore answering an internal Northern American debate. Published in 1994, it set the beginning of contemporary cosmopolitan theory. It opposes cosmopolitanism as an opening towards the world to patriotism as an inward and egoist feeling. Instead, it suggests stoicism as an inspiration in educating America citizens. Since the mid nineties cosmopolitan theory evolved, notably by moving away from stoic references to reason – as interpreted by the Enlightenment – to Habermas’ turn to communication. The reason for doing so is that reason is decided inside a particular discourse – making it a hegemonic discourse –, whereas communication is based on discussing inside the discourse from many other. Moreover, since then, the opposition between cosmopolitanism on the one side, and patriotism and nationalism on the other, has been criticised.

Nussbaum’s line of argument:

“I believe… that this emphasis on patriotic pride is both morally dangerous and, ultimately, subversive of some of the worthy goals patriotism sets out to serve — for example, the goal of national unity in devotion to worthy moral ideals of justice and equality. These goals, I shall argue, would be better served by an ideal that is in any case more adequate to our situation in the contemporary world, namely the very old ideal of the cosmopolitan, the person whose primary allegiance is to the community of human beings in the entire world.”

Some nationalists have engaged in a conversation about nationalism. A commitment to human rights for instance should be part of the education of citizens.

“But is it sufficient? As students here grow up, is it sufficient for them to learn that they are above all citizens of the United States, but that they ought to respect the basic human rights of citizens of India, Bolivia, Nigeria, and Norway? Or should they, as I think — in addition to giving special attention to the history and current situation of their own nation — learn a good deal more than is frequently the case about the rest of the world in which they live, about India and Bolivia and Nigeria and Norway and their histories, problems, and comparative successes?”

alexander_visits_diogenes_at_corinth_by_w_matthews_1914Diogenes cynic “citizen of the world,” defining oneself in more universal terms. Developed by Stoics: we have two communities, the local community of our birth, and the community of human argument and aspiration. One is born by accident in one nation. We should regard all humans as our fellow citizens and neighbours. Therefore we should not erect barriers between one another but recognise humanity everywhere.

Good civic education is education for world citizenship.

Stoics stress that one does not need to give up local identity, rather one should see our affiliations in terms of concentric circles: family, neighbours, countrymen, humanity. We should devote special attention to these close ties, the circle should revolve towards the centre. But we should not exclude the dialogue with the exterior, and devote attention and respect to others.

“I shall now return to the present day and offer four arguments for making world citizenship, rather than democratic/national citizenship, education’s central focus. (The first two are modern versions of my first two Stoic arguments; the third develops one part of my Stoic argument about intrinsic moral value; the fourth is more local, directed at the pro-patriotism arguments I am criticizing.)”:

1. “Through cosmopolitan education, we learn more about ourselves. One of the greatest barriers to rational deliberation in politics is the unexamined feeling that one’s own current preferences and ways are neutral and natural…. By looking at ourselves in the lens of the other, we come to see what in our practices is local and non-necessary, what more broadly or deeply shared.”

2. Our problems are global, such as pollution for instance. Dividing the world into nations is part of the problem in international cooperation.

3. “We recognize moral obligations to the rest of the world that are real, and that otherwise would go unrecognized.” à global justice.

“If we really do believe that all human beings are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights, we are morally required to think about what that conception requires us to do with and for the rest of the world. Once again, that does not mean that one may not permissibly give one’s own sphere a special degree of concern.” One has more attention to one’s children.

4. “On the one hand Rorty and Hackney seem to argue well when they insist on the centrality to democratic deliberation of certain values that bind all citizens together. But why should these values, which instruct us to join hands across boundaries of ethnicity and class and gender and race, lose steam when they get to the borders of the nation? By conceding that a morally arbitrary boundary such as the boundary of the nation has a deep and formative role in our deliberations, we seem to be depriving ourselves of any principled way of arguing to citizens that they should in fact join hands across these other barriers.”

Some same groups exist both outside and inside: is a Chinese Chinese in China, and American the minute he crosses the US border?

The defence of national shared values should also transcend borders. Respect should be accorded to humanity and not end at the border to only US citizen.

Being a citizen of the world is a lonely business: like Diogenes, it is going against the comfort of patriotism.

“If one begins life as a child who loves and trusts its parents, it is tempting to want to reconstruct citizenship along the same lines, finding in an idealized image of a nation a surrogate parent who will do one’s thinking for one. Cosmopolitanism offers no such refuge; it offers only reason and the love of humanity, which may seem at times less colorful than other sources of belonging.”

tagore3Rabindranath Tagore is cited as an example with his novel The Home and the World, in which the hero declares: “I am willing to serve my country; but my worship I reserve for Right which is far greater than my country. To worship my country as a god is to bring a curse upon it.” Tagore created a cosmopolitan university in India to promote the ideals of the cosmopolitan community of Santiniketan against ethno-centric forces of Hindu nationalism.

Critique:

First, what kind of stoicism is this? Whose stoicism? Isn’t it a certain period’s interpretation of stoicism? My argument is this: cosmopolitanism as we know it today is the product of nineteenth century nationalism. As such it is a “national-cosmopolitanism.” In this cosmopolitanism, it is opposed to patriotism and nationalism as the local. In this sense, the debate cosmopolitanism vs. patriotism and/or nationalism is a debate inside the paradigm of the nation-state. There is a need to formulate a debate beyond this paradigm, which necessitates a meticulous analysis of “Western” intellectual history, first, and, second, a wide communication with the rest of the world.

Second, and related to the first point, does cosmopolitanism need to be solely the philosophy of those who travel? And does it need to be the philosophy of values “transcending” “negative” ideas of patriotism and nationalism? Other authors – e.g. Kymlicka, Tan – argue that cosmopolitanism and nationalism are not so foreign because they both stem from liberalism.

In my master’s thesis I have shown that indeed during eighteenth century French political thought, the concepts of “patrie” and “nation” were formulated in cosmopolitan terms, from the discourse of natural law, and a questioning of the rational sovereign for free and equal humankind.

However, even if slightly dated, Nussbaum’s article has the merit to have started a whole range of debates and discussion on cosmopolitanism, questioning what it is, what its relation to nationalism is, and how to formulate a genuinely global cosmopolitanism that would not be set in a located discourse.

The debates between cosmopolitans and patriots appears to be the one produced by a forgotten history – a product of nineteenth century’s building of nationalism as rejecting everything foreign on the one side, on an eighteenth conception of the “cosmopolitan” as a perpetual globe-trotter. This is precisely why a history of cosmopolitanism in political thought is needed: to delineate clearly the battles between discourses or inside discourses, the Ursprung of concepts, objects and theories such as “nation,” “patrie,” and “cosmopolitan.” This is my research project.

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Works cited:

Habermas, Jürgen (1979 [1976]) Communication and the Evolution of Society. Beacon Press.

(1984, 1987) The Theory of Communicative Action. 2 vols. Translated by Thomas McCarthy. Cambridge: Polity.

Kymlicka, Will (2001) “From Enlightenment Cosmopolitanism to Liberal Nationalism.” In Politics in the Vernacular: Nationalism, Multiculturalism and Citizenship, by Will Kymlicka, 203-221(19). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nussbaum, Martha C. (1994) “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism.” Boston Review 19(5).

Rorty, Richard (1994) “The Unpatriotic Academy.” The New York Times, 13 February 1994.

Tagore, Rabindranath (2005 [1915]) The Home and the World. London: Penguin Classics.

Tan, Kok-Chor (2005) “The Demands of Justice and National Allegiances.” In The Political Philosophy of Cosmopolitanism, edited by Gillian Brock and Harry Brighouse, 164-179. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Obama’s Foreign Policy: A Cosmopolitan Policy in the Interests of the U.S.A.

obamasupermanCandidate Obama signed an article in the well-known scholarly journal of international relations Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007, entitled “Common Security for our Common Humanity.” There are a few reasons why Obama can be called a cosmopolitan politician as well as his policy agenda a program for cosmopolitics. One thing that is immediately striking is that there is no reference to American security or the American people in the title of the next president of the United States of America’s foreign policy program. A second thought, is the recognition already in the title of post-modern critiques made to security studies and the way we build our perceptions of security: a country’s security is ultimately a matter of building a global security, and a country’s security is not defined in protecting a state’s interest but humans’. However, the basic spheres of action of the U.S.A. are definitely standard neo-realist ones when it comes to nuclear threats and terrorism.

America and the world: a common shared humanity ergo common shared security.

Obama’s vision of foreign policy is that we’re in it together: “America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, and the world cannot meet them without America.” There is a certain will to engage the USA to more multilateral actions, and especially not to withdraw into a certain form of protectionism and inward focused political energy. The ambition is to continue not only on propagating values of freedom and democracy, but also on being a beacon to the world for these values – the two traditional schools of thought for American foreign policy (Kissinger 1994, 18). However, after the Bush administration these two must be renewed. A direct critique to the Bush administration’s choice of policy in Iraq is made in falsely believing that there only existed a military option when other policies lead to greater security – mainly, as will be shown, improving the international institutions, and financial assistance to alleviate poverty, disease and construct solid democracies. Obama’s novelty is to apply both schools of thought together, and to add a new dimension, which is to create a certain cosmopolis based on the idea of common humanity:

“The mission of the United States is to provide global leadership grounded in the understanding that the world shares a common security and a common humanity.”

Unilateral vs. Multilateral.

This vision of the U.S.A. in the world is led by the belief that it still is the most powerful state – according to neo-realist theory of power (military, economic, political) – and is still, and must be, the leader:

“The American moment is not over, but it must be seized anew. To see American power in terminal decline is to ignore America’s great promise and historic purpose in the world.”

Here there is nothing really new in the messianic dimension that the U.S.A. has itself in the world. Moreover, the U.S.A. will still act unilaterally in case “vital interests” are at stake:

“I will not hesitate to use force, unilaterally if necessary, to protect the American people or our vital interests whenever we are attacked or imminently threatened.”

The whole question is thus how Obama defines these interests. Are these solely military or terrorist attacks? In other cases, Obama committed to a multilateralist approach:

“But when we do use force in situations other than self-defense, we should make every effort to garner the clear support and participation of others…”

Obama cites Georges Bush’s action in Iraq as an example – not W. that is but H. W. – in 1991 when the coalition led by the United States had the “clear support and participation of others.”

Number One Priority: “Halting the spread of nuclear weapons.”

In which key sectors should then the U.S.A. act following these general guidelines? The first priority is nuclear proliferation and security from nuclear threats, especially terrorist acquisitions of nuclear devices. In order to do so, the U.S.A. must act in “active cooperation” with Russia, and principally in reaching a “consensus” on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This is very classical neo-realist international relations.

Number Two Priority: “Combating global terrorism.”

9/11 is still the reference in foreign policy. In order to do so it is the front in Afghanistan and Pakistan that must be reinforced with American troops redeployed. That means also that troops in Iraq are to be progressively withdrawn. The military budget will however be increased in order to face these challenges. However the way to tackle it is less unilateral than the preceding administrations. Not only does the U.S.A. need to build a global partnership, but Obama acknowledges the existence of a debate within Islam between fundamentalists and reformers, and wants to support reformers. Moreover, assessing previous failures, intelligence must be reinforced, and also must be strongly connected with other countries’ in a network and comprehensive strategy.

Number Three Priority: “Rebuilding our partnership.”

“To renew American leadership in the world, I intend to rebuild the alliances, partnerships, and institutions necessary to confront common threats and enhance common security.”

The novelty in American foreign policy is here: a greater commitment to building the institutions to create a world community bonded by common security threats.

NATO, comes first and is identified as the organization for common security. More troops must ensure collective security and more must be invested in this organization. However, nothing is said as to the notoriously American led government of the organization.

The United Nations nonetheless is identified as the organization in which the recognition of rising new powers in the world must be met with reforms:

“In addition, we need effective collaboration on pressing global issues among all the major powers — including such newly emerging ones as Brazil, India, Nigeria, and South Africa.” “We need to give all of them a stake in upholding the international order. To that end, the United Nations requires far-reaching reform.”

Is this a reform of the Security Council? Nothing is clearly stated, but it is already a giant leap that the word reform is accepted as well as the recognition of emerging powers such as precisely the countries named to enter the Security Council with a seat: Brazil, India, Nigeria, and South Africa,

As to climate change, it’s a sea-change. The much awaited commitment from the U.S.A. to reduce carbon emissions is clearly stated. No reference as to the Kyoto protocol and other international instruments to reduce pollution, though, but a clear statement to work with Europe and Asia. A note on national interest: engagement to put an end to dependence on foreign oil, but no prosaic explanation as to how: off-shore drilling or reducing the consumption?

Number four priority: “Building just, secure, democratic societies.”

“Finally, to renew American leadership in the world, I will strengthen our common security by investing in our common humanity.”

“To build a better, freer world, we must first behave in ways that reflect the decency and aspirations of the American people.”

Restore America’s role as a beacon, one of the two pillars of traditional American Foreign Policy. “This means ending the practices of shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, of detaining thousands without charge or trial, of maintaining a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law.”

Improve US foreign assistance funding, and couple with “insistent call for reform”.

“We need to invest in building capable, democratic states that can establish healthy and educated communities, develop markets, and generate wealth. Such states would also have greater institutional capacities to fight terrorism, halt the spread of deadly weapons, and build health-care infrastructures to prevent, detect, and treat deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and avian flu.

“As president, I will double our annual investment in meeting these challenges to $50 billion by 2012 and ensure that those new resources are directed toward worthwhile goals. For the last 20 years, U.S. foreign assistance funding has done little more than keep pace with inflation. It is in our national security interest to do better.”

“There are compelling moral reasons and compelling security reasons for renewed American leadership that recognizes the inherent equality and worth of all people.”

Faith.

The new generation of leaders is telling a new story, a kind of new telos or “grand narrative” (Lyotard 1984) which in fact is this cosmopolitan narrative of a common humanity:

“… it is time for a new generation to tell the next great American story. If we act with boldness and foresight, we will be able to tell our grandchildren that this was the time when we helped forge peace in the Middle East. This was the time we confronted climate change and secured the weapons that could destroy the human race. This was the time we defeated global terrorists and brought opportunity to forgotten corners of the world. And this was the time when we renewed the America that has led generations of weary travelers from all over the world to find opportunity and liberty and hope on our doorstep.”

The novelty in Obama’s foreign policy is perhaps less the content, although it is a drastic return to a prior Bush administration – and Clinton administration –, than the form. The role of the U.S.A. in the world, the leadership for democracy and freedom is not new, but a traditional role. The role of the U.S.A. as a beacon isn’t either. But Obama wants both, and he wants to be a global leader in building a strong partnership toward a common goal which is humankind. In order to achieve such a goal, the American people but also the people of the world must participate by understanding and agreeing to policies taken:

“This is our moment to renew the trust and faith of our people — and all people — in an America that battles immediate evils, promotes an ultimate good, and leads the world once more.”

——

References:

Kissinger, Henry (1994) Diplomacy. New York, NY: Touchstone.

Lyotard, Jean-François (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984, reprint 1997. Translated by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi.

Obama, Barack (2007) “Common Security for Our Common Humanity”, Foreign Affairs 86(4) July/August 2007.

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Obama and McCain: Barack the cosmopolitan and John the local

Many things oppose Obama and McCain. Of course, on the paper–on which their programme is printed that is–not much is separating them. On many issues they agree and especially in foreign policy one would be a fool to believe that Obama would be more multilateralist than McCain. The “America interest” will always prime. However, the devil is in the details of their style. I believe after all in this old French saying according to which “the form is the substance that goes back to the surface.” Their forms are very different.

John is 72, he made most of his career already in the second half of the twentieth century. I do not mean to diminish him, it is just a fact. As the coronation of a long life–and many lives–the job of supreme commander seems appropriate for a man with so many experiences. He surely knows what tough is. One thing he does not know, however, is what the future is and how to shape it. He only knows how to shape the present from past experiences.

Barack is young, way too young. I do not mean to diminish him, it is just a fact. He does not have any experience, even in politics. He does not know what tough is–certainly not the way John knows. One thing he does know however, is how to shape the future and precisely because of his lack of experiences that pushes him to be creative.

Because of this lack of experience, Barack felt he had to prove himself. He went abroad to make campaign–a unique event in the history of presidential campaigns. He gained a wide support and could come back home with the image of a national leader that the whole world regards as the next president because he showed he listened and understood the global responsability that the USA has to bear.

John made his campaign in America. Day after day he strode along the country, the countryside, from pancake houses to gas stations. He met this population of rural WASPs, his fellowmen, the white America. When Barack made his key speech in Berlin in front of a huge crowd, John chose derision: a little improvised dialogue with the few journalists gathered on the front porch of a German restaurant lost in the middle of nowhere USA.

Because John’s campaign is resolutely addressed to America, this America that thinks it is the only America. And when he chose Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, it was also to stick even more to this America of self-proclaimed “patriots”, of self-proclaimed “values”, “traditions”, which must still be defended against an frightful “outside” world, which is conveniently confused with “terrorism,” “winning the war in Iraq,” and “Bin Laden is still out there.”

Barack’s campaign is turned to a different America, a plural America which is a whole continent with immigrants from the so-called “minorities” who came to live a better life. An America, which is part of the world and sees issues but does not demonise or confuse its population between a war in Iraq started for the wrong reasons and the necessity to finish a poorly done job. An America that listens to the world in how to cope with “threats.” If his international credentials were not solid enough, he chose an older and experienced diplomatic figure in the person of Joe Biden.

Barack’s campaign is focusing on huge stadiums, crowds, the Internet. John’s is old fashioned with many local meetings, less stadiums, less big crowds, less journalist crews following him. His internet campaign site does not provide any tool for Internet campaigning. The old fashioned styled America is his focus group, which he reaches with his tour bus “Straight talk express.”

Photo by Howie Luvzus

Photo by Howie Luvzus

Of course John also has a campaign jet, but it is not the image he wants to give; whereas Barack does not hesitate to give pictures of him thoughtfully contemplating the sky from the window of his jet as if already flying Air Force One.

In the end, which America will massively go voting is the big question of this campaign. Is it this multiethnic America, or Joe the plumber? The suburban immigrants who identify with Obama, the son of a Kenyan farmer raised in Asia? Or the rural WASP who still thinks that America must finish the job in Iraq where Bin Laden is hidden because America does not loose any more war since Vietnam?

The issue of this campaign has a significant meaning for realist cosmopolitan politics. If Obama gets elected, it means that a cosmopolitan profile can gather sufficiently an electorate to elect such politicians. If McCain wins, it means on the contrary that there still is some work to be done for cosmopolitanism to get closer to this “local” so that there is not such a divide between this local cut from the rest of the world, so aloof that events and politics of this world do not concern them and tend to confuse them. In my sense it is the biggest challenge of any cosmopolitan politician to gather sufficiently a whole part of society stuck in the twentieth century and take it to the twenty-first without a clash–of generation that is.

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Schlereth: The Cosmopolitan Ideal in Enlightenment Thought

Schlereth, Thomas (1977) The Cosmopolitan Ideal in Enlightenment Thought: Its Form and Function in the Ideas of Franklin, Hume, and Voltaire, 1694-1790. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.

Thomas J. Schlereth studied how the cosmopolitan ideal had a “noticeable impact on Enlightenment intellectual life throughout the trans-Atlantic community”.[1] But Schlereth does not advance that cosmopolitanism was responsible for most of the movements of the eighteenth century. However, one can only but assume that, given the limit of his essay (based only on the works of Franklin, Hume, and Voltaire), he could not go further in affirming the impact of cosmopolitanism on a larger scale. (Schlereth 1977)

According to him, the concept of eighteenth century cosmopolitanism could be delimitated as possessing the following characteristics: “an attitude of mind that attempted to transcend chauvinistic national loyalties or parochial prejudices in its intellectual interests and pursuits”[2]; “… an aspiration of the elite intellectual class that Voltaire called the world’s petite [sic: petit] troupeau des philosophes[3]; “… more symbolic and theoretical than actual and practical”[4]; “… a psychological construct that prompted many philosophes to replace or to modify their attachment to their geographical region or sphere of activity with a more expansive, albeit abstract, attitude toward the whole world.”[5]

I think that starting a study with a definition of the subject to investigate is an analytic error to avoid. The term cosmopolitanism should not be delimitated in advance when looking at the Enlightenment period, because, otherwise, one runs the risk to look with present glasses on the past and interpret it anachronistically. But it has to be given to his credit that Schlereth writes that he tried to be critical of the cosmopolitanism he found in Voltaire, Hume and Franklin. And he evaluates where he found their account inconsistent, compromised or uncosmopolitan. Schlereth’s history, therefore, must be taken as a personal essay about intellectual history, a bit in the line of Todorov’s Nous et les autres.

“In the essay that follows, I argue that certain intellectual premises (for example, the Newtonian cosmology or the natural-rights philosophy), certain psychological dispositions (perhaps a self-conscious individualism or a strong cultural awareness), and certain historical realities (for instance, the development of world commerce or the exploration of the Western Hemisphere) combined in conditioning the Enlightenment philosophe in the direction of the cosmopolitan ideal. At the same time, the ideal also had since antiquity a historical life of its own which enabled the philosophe, who was aware of the classics and the intellectual climate of the eighteenth century, to confront social, economic, and political realities of that period in cosmopolitan terms.”[6]

Schlereth’s thesis of the blooming of cosmopolitanism is combining material and ideational elements, a certain discourse related to Newton and natural-right, social and economic structures with the development of world commerce and new explorations, and individual methodology with the idea of thinkers being responsible of changes.

Schlereth identifies the cosmopolites of the Enlightenment as the third generation of cosmopolites, the first being the Ancients (Greeks and Romans), and the second being the moderns of the Renaissance (Bacon, Locke, Newton, Bayle, and Leibnitz).[7] This third generation was influenced by the two first generations. “But the Enlightenment cosmopolites developed an even wider definition of the ideal and extended its appeal to a broader, although still elite, membership. Antiquity’s cosmopolites made their greatest contributions to the ideal in formulating its political and philosophical tenets; the Renaissance and early modern cosmopolites pursued its additional religious and social ramifications—especially when they confronted religious pluralism or became conscious of themselves as an emerging intellectual class. Enlightenment cosmopolites assimilated these earlier characteristics of the ideal while grappling with its further implications in science and economics. Employing this legacy of past expressions of cosmopolitanism as points of reference, inspiration, and departure, the Enlightenment philosophes formulated a distinctive mental attitude that can be viewed as one of the common denominators underlying the variety of eighteenth-century thought.”[8]

The sociology of an International class:

“The typical eighteenth-century philosophe aspired to be a cosmopolite, and in turn, the cosmopolite was, by the Enlightenment’s own presumptuous definition, pictured as a typical eighteenth-century philosophe.”[9]

Classicism

The philosophes were all, to a certain degree, educated with classical Greek and Roman lettres. Schlereth suggests that the reason why they turned to the classics is that they were looking for non religious thinking about contemporary issues.

Paris as the capital of the Enlightenment and cosmopolitanism.

Many philosophes of the Enlighenment regarded Paris as the capital of cosmopolitanism and of Enlightenment.[10]

The diffusion of ideas:

Salons were the place where trans-class intellectual exchanges were possible.

Diners organised by aristocrats were the more virile equivalent of the salons organised mostly by erudite women.

Journals and publications were the means to diffuse the philosophes’ ideas. Nouvelles de la république des lettres was founded by Pierre Bayle in 1684, Nouvelles de la république des lettres et des arts was founded by Pahin de Champlain de la Blancherie, and Journal étranger, edited by Prévost, Fréron and Suard, had as its editorial policy to combine “the genius of each nation with those of all the others”.[11]

Elitism

Philosophes were some kind of a “band of brothers”. They were extensively exchanging ideas between each others through correspondence. The ideal of the world citizen was realised by the unique class formed by the philosophes, or what the contemporary word “intellectual” could translate in our present discourse. They were neither from the nobility nor the bourgeoisie. They considered themselves as forming a class of their own.[12]

Economic and political theory of World order:

However, Hume and Voltaire considered the merchants to be cosmopolites.[13] The idea of a commercial society and economic interdependence is linked with the idea of a more civilized world and widening tolerance.

“The idealization of the cosmopolitan merchants can be traced to the middle-class origins of many philosophes. For while they appealed to economic principles and programs that they considered universal in scope, they did so quite naturally in terms of the specific interests of the social group that they considered to be the most progressive class of their time, that is, the emerging bourgeoisie or haute bourgeoisie from which so many of them originated.”[14]

Hume and Voltaire equated economic individualism with the development of political liberty. Probably, they are at the origin of the dogma in many international organisations and political thinking, that, in order to encourage democracy and political liberty in developing countries, neo-liberalist economics should be implemented. But they professed an absolute laissez-faire and laissez-passer, i.e. no only goods and capitals are free to travel, but also labour. Migration was seen as a right of Man.

“The notion of international commerce as a promoter of world civilization and peace became a consistent, if at times naïve, premise of Enlightenment cosmopolitan thought.”[15]

“The philosophes’ international outlook in economics influenced their attitude toward political theory, since they viewed both disciplines as interrelated branches of moral philosophy.”[16] The philosophes were not anti-national, but they had a clear idea of what constituted an appropriate and legitimate allegiance to one’s nation-state.

According to Schlereth, the majority of Enlightenment philosophes “made the usual Lockean distinction between society and government in that they considered society as a natural social unit and government as only a man-made social arrangement.” All political philosophies start with the individual.

Critique:

Schlereth’s eighteenth-century cosmopolitanism is delineated as possessing the following characteristics: ‘an attitude of mind that attempted to transcend chauvinistic national loyalties or parochial prejudices in its intellectual interests and pursuits’ (1977, xi); ‘… an aspiration of the elite intellectual class that Voltaire called the world’s petite [sic: petit] troupeau des philosophes. This definition assumes and defines cosmopolitanism as elitist, beyond the national, and abstract. The problem is that the historian must then look for the national at a period when it did not yet exist, and oppose normatively a supposedly ‘abstract’ and ‘elitist’ cosmopolitanism to what seems to be a ‘concrete’ and ‘popular’ nationalism. What is wrong in this picture is that, not only did the ‘national’ not yet exist, but that, in eighteenth-century political thought, what is today identified as ‘national’ was just as abstract and elitist as cosmopolitanism is imagined to be. Not only that, it also referred to a unifying political community — beyond the local under the natural law conception of freedom and equality among men. This sounds almost identical to the very same working definition provided of cosmopolitanism. However, based on this contemporary conception of cosmopolitanism as opposed to nationalism, one must assume that the latter was different from the former. Why is that so? Moreover, important actors of the French revolution actually argued and acted in very cosmopolitan terms; and chiefly the 1789 Declaration of the rights of man and the citizen represents an important piece of practical cosmopolitics in recognising the freedom and equality of the whole humankind. This is far from a ‘more symbolic and theoretical than actual and practical’ conception.

Behind all this lies a need for a re-conceptualisation of the relationship between cosmopolitanism and nationalism, especially in regard to the French revolution. This method of ontological definition is problematic for both the historian and the philosopher. For the historian, there is a risk of applying an anachronistic vision of cosmopolitanism, based on a contemporary approach of what it is a vision biased by nationalism as argued supra and ignoring what it has been. For the philosopher, it is ruining future ontological constructions by reproducing again and again the same ‘knowledge’ of what cosmopolitanism is and has been.

A possible way out of this ontology/epistemology conundrum is to make a Foucaultian ‘history of the present’ by means of a genealogy of this battle between discourses.



[1] Schlereth, 1977: xi.

[2] Ibid.: xi.

[3] Ibid.: xii.

[4] Ibid.: xii.

[5] Ibid.: xiii.

[6] Ibid.: xiv.

[7] Ibid.: xxiv-xxv.

[8] Ibid.: xxv.

[9] Ibid.: 1.

[10] Ibid.: 6

[11] Ibid.: 15-16

[12] Ibid.: 13.

[13] Ibid.: 101.

[14] Ibid.: 102.

[15] Ibid.: 103.

[16] Ibidem.

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French cuisine and national identity

I read in this week’s French equivalent to Time magazine Le Point an interview of gourmet critique Christian Millau, creator of the famous restaurant guide of the best restaurants, that ‘French cuisine does not exist.’

Actually, it is a point of view I came up with long ago after a few thoughts based on my travels, on numerous requests from friends abroad that I cook ‘something French.’ Inevitably I would think about a regional dish to illustrate something ‘French’: a ‘tartiflette’ from Savoie, pancakes from Bretagne, ‘Boeuf bourguignon’ from Bourgogne, ‘ratatouille’ from Provence, and so on.

I have always been wondering about this paradox that the French revolution and the national unification that ensued under the name ‘jacobinism’ did not manage to create such sense of national identity in culinary creations. I guess all in all some tastes cannot be reconciled. Butter cuisine from Bretagne and Normandy in North-West France would never meet olive oil based dishes from the Mediterranean region. Perhaps, after all, regional cultures and identity managed to survive this jacobinism despite the republican discourse presenting ‘regional particularism’ as archaic expressions of separatism while national unity represented ‘modernity’–this old fear of ‘communautarism’ in the French discourse about identity–thanks to regional cuisine and the impossibility to develop a national one.

It is very interesting to think about identity questions in terms of culinary traditions, of taste and food. Some fusions are always possible and new creations endless from a vast variety of products. However, they always need a solid basis in traditional and regional products, unchanged. At some point nevertheless, this fusion encounters limits. Everyone is free to accommodate ‘traditional’ recipes or products with one another, endlessly and without rules. As long as it tastes good.

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Back in France: diversity and integration

I am back in France and have been staying for a month now. I left about 7-8 years ago and only came back a few days twice a year for season holidays to visit my parents. My contact with French politics was limited to following the news sporadically in the dailies, and I only kept ties with French culture by exploring eighteenth century literature and philosophy. I left partly because I felt ill-treated in France, partly because I felt I would not be able to achieve what I wanted to in a society I perceived as highly hierarchical, responding to authority, but yet constantly acting — in an immature way — against authority.

Coming back was a big shock. Things are even worse and more pronounced, I think than when I left. Or is it just because being in France I am also following the news through the radio and television? What I perceive is a society in crisis. Not only the recession and the economic crisis, which is now even worsened by the global financial crash, but also the whole society and its identity.

I read in the serious and trustworthy Le Monde about how the French police is perusing at a European conference about its solid techniques of repression and anti-riot tactics for the suburbs. The European neighbours applauded politely but off the records wondered about the necessity and efficiency of this kind of violence. Two days later a video was shown in the French media of policemen beating a young inhabitant of these suburbs who appears defenceless, and allegedly was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. A few days later, during a friendly football match between France and Tunisia, the French national anthem La Marseillaise was booed and whistled by supporters. Great demonstration of paternal protest ensued from the powers-that-be about these “imbeciles” who should “show respect to the national anthem and the players”; huge political tempest in a football glass.

The issue is that so many of these Frenchmen feel at odds with the French identity as displayed in mainstream media and by the authorities.

An excellent documentary “9-3 mémoire d’un territoire” (“9-3 memory of a territory”) investigates one of these “suburban area” that has so often been shown in the media as violence zone, one of these areas where two years ago rampage and riots occurred. The immigration from all the countries have accumulated there over a century. From the first Spanish and Italian workers brought to die in these poisonous and polluted death-factories established around Paris, to the North African and African ones brought to reconstruct France after World War II, parked in the sixties and seventies in the cheapest possible buildings, to the more recent Africans and inhabitants from former colonies lured into employment. Today this zone is disaffected by public authority, no school or any public infrastructure can be built on a polluted and poisonous ground, the youth is unemployed and rejected from the French education system, which only reproduce the same elite trained to pass special exams in the grandes écoles.

Rachida Dati by Benjamin Lemaire

Rachida Dati by Benjamin Lemaire

Rama Yade, by Marie-Lan Nguyen

Rama Yade, by Marie-Lan Nguyen

Le Monde was also presenting a series of investigations about integration in politics entitled “when a French Obama?”: in the French Parliament only 1MP out of 577 is black! 4 out of 343 senators are of Maghreb descent. 2000 out of 520,000 town-hall counsellors are representing diversity. In the government though, Rachida Dati, Rama Yade and Fadela Amara represent diversity. However, they seem to miss the point. Barack Obama is not a candidate for a minority. He is bot a black candidate to represent the African-American. In my view, he would not even be able to run for the presidency if he was. He is so successful because he has always held a speech about unity. He is a cosmopolitan candidate with multiple identities, in which everyone can recognise one’s own. This candidate was only possible in a country were, firstly, minorities could be recognise and gain access to higher education, social positions and political representations, and, secondly, multiethnicity and multiculturalism was so widespread that a new model of commonality and unity had to be imagined.

So is it really so hard to understand why some football supporters boo the Marseillaise? Is it really the appropriate response to display a paternalistic faked anger and indignation at the reality of a failed model of French integration? To show this withdrawal to nationalist symbols, which do not mean anything to anyone any more? These statesmen are hanging to symbols from the nineteenth century, as if our society was still living the glorious days of the coming industrial age, and necessitated a social cohesion based on a strong and rigorously monolithic national mass culture. On the other hand, people reject these symbols for this very same reason.

As if the “nation” ever meant a uni-dimensional view of culture. As if the Marseillaise was the anthem of a nationalistic and patriotic emotion that only the far-right and the conservatives had the courage to display publicly.

It seems to me that it is the whole French conception of the nation-state that needs to be dramatically re-investigated and thought anew. The nation is a common denominator for diversity, originally. In the early days of the French revolution it was the common concept to gather all free men as opposed to tyrants. By the same token, the patrie was this territory on which men were free and participating to public decisions. Seen this way, there is nothing “wrong” in being a nationalist or a patriot. It also allows a more open conception of society and identity. And after all it is only later that the concept of nation and patrie became “French”, or for that matter “British” or “German” etc: in the late eighteenth century in the history of ideas, and in the late nineteenth century for the deep roots in society.

This change of paradigm may sound aloof from realities. It is not. It matters because we enter progressively a change to a creative economy, in which growth is produced by the “creative industries”. And according to some social and economic theories, they can only thrive in towns and regions were tolerance, talent, and technology are encouraged. This means that a lot of money must be invested in the development of research and higher education, and that different education models than the one of the industrial age must be fostered. The goal is not to produce communicative elements in the society that must perform repetitive and des-individualised tasks such as writing “to whom it may concern” letters, but to produce individuals capable of functioning in opened and diverse societies, creative and talented, able to think for themselves rather than repeat what a rigid society needs them to repeat.

France is not on this path. Of course, some grandes écoles are breaching the taboo of “affirmative action” by recruiting young from these ethnically diverse suburbs. But it is a drop in the ocean. There are less PhD dissertations completed in France than in the UK and Germany. Worse, the rates are dropping while they are soaring in these countries. Budgets for research are not up to the levels they should be. France is not investing in the future. On top of this, elected officials are still functioning in the rhetoric of a Third Republic France with grandiose ideas of the French identity, values and symbols.

There is a need for a cosmopolitan state. This cosmopolitan state would reinterpret these national values and symbols, back to their pre-industrial liberal roots, in order to foster the creative economy. At the same time, there is a need to change the mentality that everyone should expect the state or public authorities to do everything. There is a need for more individualistic energy and initiatives. It is also the role of education to teach people not to wait for authority to regulate problems. This does not mean a minimalistic state, it means a responsible and mature population that does not just strike for any problem but efficiently communicate. It means a society based on more egalitarian principles. It means an education that values what people can accomplish according to their capacities. It means a society that respect human beings for what they can do and give the opportunity to accomplish their potential, instead of solely looking at what grande école one studied at and what hierarchical rank one occupies. Only a tolerant and flat based social model with an opened identity can flourish. This means that France must reinvent herself, and this path is best traced through re-investing in her revolutionary roots.

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Obama the first cosmopolitan politician

Will Obama be the first cosmopolitan elected official? Everything points to an affirmative answer — on both counts. Surely, he is the first ever to be so multicultural with a Kenyan father, a US citizen mother, born in Hawaii, raised in Jakarta. He is also the first to make campaign abroad, the first who understands that we live in a globalised but unequal world, where one country’s decisions affect millions of other lives in other countries. He is the first to address other audiences than the American one, and to proclaim solemnly being a ‘citizen of the world’.

Of course, America’s power is in decline. Its economy is in recession and triggered a financial crisis that is affecting the whole world, except countries too poor to be part of the financial market, but which will suffer more harshly than the riches nonetheless.Bush and his administration did much harm to one of America’s most fundamental pillar of foreign policy: being a beacon for democracy and liberty in the world. The jails of  Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are the most representative examples. Consequently, America’s ‘soft power’ — to take Joseph Nye’s expression — is in decline as well. Everything points to a decline of its military power also, not only because of financial constraints in the budget, but also because of severe limitations within the inside and the outside to America’s future involvements in military actions — at least unilateral ones.

On the other side, we can see growing forces that tend to signify the beginning of a new era in world politics, which experts are calling ‘a-polarity’. A-polarity because several countries or entities will be in a position of power, without having the possibility to impose its power. There will thus not be multipolarity — in which there is some stability — but a-polarity — where instability prevails. Russia and China — and to a lesser extent India — are developing worrying patterns of neo-nineteenth-century-nationalism. The sneaky planned intervention in Georgia and South Ossetia, and the relaxed nationalist diatribes to reinstall a great Russia by military means are worrying for a secure world order. Similarly and on the politics of symbolism and in political economy, China’s nationalist ambitions to restore a great China for the sole sake of nationalist pride is equally worrying.

Therefore, in these troubled times to come, knowing that a man shows so clear understanding of the need to co-operate, the need to take multilateral actions, the need to take into considerations other citizens in the world who will be affected by USA’s actions, is a hope that is not negligible. Never has the need for hope and change from the United States of America been so great. Never a man has gathered so vastly opinions in the world for a local election. Never have I, and everyone else in the world, expressed so much interest in a local election. Never a man has made it almost the first global democratic election. And this is because we, citizens of this world, need change. And all together — not the USA alone, not Europe alone, not anyone else in this world by themselves — all together, ‘yes, we can’, change the world for the better.

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Rousseau et le paradoxe d’une pensée cosmopolitique anti-cosmopolite

Dans la pensée de Rousseau, il y a un paradoxe sur lequel on se penche de plus en plus. Une certaine acrimonie face aux cosmopolites, alors que Rousseau exprime une pensée cosmopolitique en reprenant le grand projet de Saint-Pierre d’une paix universelle et perpétuelle. Projet raillé par un truculent Voltaire il est vrai, dans son Rescrit de l’Empereur de Chine, parce qu’il semble ne concerner que l’Europe. Ce paradoxe a été longtemps occulté par une lecture nationaliste de la pensée de Rousseau. En ce sens Rousseau apparaît comme le penseur de l’Etat-nation au sens contemporain du terme. Cependant, il faudrait apporter une lecture qui remettrait Rousseau dans le vocabulaire et la pensée de l’époque et arrêter cette vision d’un Rousseau précurseur du romantisme, anti-chambre du dix-neuvième siècle. Cette vision est celle d’une relecture de cette période, selon un vocabulaire différent. Mais revenons-en à ce paradoxe qui découle de cette relecture de Rousseau dans son époque.

En ce qui concerne l’acrimonie de Rousseau, je suis en train de travailler sur un article — histoire de me faire une publication — à ce sujet. Ma perception est qu’il faut séparer le concept du cosmopolite et celui de cosmopolitisme. Il y a une philosophie que l’on peut appeler « cosmopolitique » à l’époque, même si le mot « cosmopolitisme » n’apparaît que plus tard, fin 19e siècle. Et puis en parallèle, il y a des « cosmopolites », et un certain rejet de plus en plus général de ces « cosmopolites ». Ces cosmopolites sont des voyageurs. La raison pour laquelle j’avance cette affirmation est l’existence dans les dictionnaires de deux acceptations du terme, une grammaticale et une philosophique. C’est pour cela que je pense que le rejet de l’acceptation grammaticale du cosmopolite — le voyageur sans attaches fixes — conduit lentement à un rejet par sémantique du cosmopolite philosophique — perception stoïcienne politique.

Rousseau est, je pense un cosmopolite dans le sens philosophique du terme comme en témoignent beaucoup d’écrits, notamment sa révérence faite à une des grandes références en philosophie politique du siècle : l’abbé de Saint-Pierre et son projet de paix universelle et perpétuelle. Rousseau pense comme tant d’autres – on l’oublie trop souvent — qu’il faut œuvrer à la création d’une société commune de l’humanité. Cependant, il cherche à se démarquer des grands penseurs (qui sont à l’époque Grotius, Locke que l’on accepte et Hobbes que l’on rejette). Ainsi, il avance la thèse selon laquelle il faut d’abord construire des sociétés particulières avant la grande société des sociétés. Il avance aussi les hypothèses selon lesquelles une telle société doit être fondée sur l’amour des lois et de la « patrie », comme Montesquieu.

Le cosmopolite, au sens grammatical, devient l’anti-patriote, car comment peut-on savoir qu’il va aimer les lois et la patrie puisqu’il change de pays comme de chemise ? Ce cosmopolite là est aussi identifié avec les philosophes qui voyagent et promeuvent l’idée de l’existence d’une société naturelle que la société sociale doit respecter. Cette pensée est issue de la théorie du droit naturel, qui pose problème politiquement parlant : le souverain est Dieu qui a décidé des lois naturelles ; or comment politiquement transcrire un souverain métaphysique, et comment et qui peut décider de définir ces lois ? Face à ce discours métaphysique existe un discours physique, comme par exemple Holbach qui lui aussi s’insurge contre l’inexistence de toute société dite naturelle avant une société humaine :
“L’homme, fruit d’une Société contractée entre un mâle et une femelle de son espèce, fut toujours en Société” (La politique naturelle).

Rousseau est un penseur si important, à mon sens, parce qu’il apporte une réponse concrète au problème philosophique du souverain légitime. La réponse selon laquelle le souverain légitime serait le peuple ne va pas de soi, si l’on considère le paradigme philosophique selon lequel l’homme est né libre et égal en droit. En effet, un penseur méconnu de la révolution française, Anacharsis Cloots, souligne tout à fait cette contradiction : pourquoi tel peuple déciderait de fractionner le pouvoir politique ? Et où cette fraction peut-elle s’arrêter ? Pourquoi tel village ne déciderait-il pas de devenir souverain ? Des questions éminemment actuelles à l’heure des séparatismes nationalistes de toute sorte. Sa solution n’en est pas moins une source de nombreux autres problèmes : le souverain est le genre humain qui doit être réuni dans une république universelle.

Rousseau est aussi important pour la pensée cosmopolitique parce qu’il est celui qui, avant Kant et qui l’inspira, fait entrer le cosmopolitisme dans la pensée politique. Malheureusement, il fustige les « cosmopolites », associés aux philosophes, et je pense que c’est de là que vient notre lecture de Rousseau comme à « contre-temps » de son époque et déjà dans le dix-neuvième nationaliste. C’est une erreur. Je pense que Rousseau fustige simplement ces voyageurs qui sont apatrides par choix, parce qu’il pense que tout système politique pour être bien ordonné et pacifique doit reposer sur un ensemble de sociétés républicaines, qui ne peuvent être stable et fonctionner que si les citoyens sont respectueux des lois et du droit. La patrie dans le vocabulaire du dix-huitième siècle n’est pas celle du dix-neuvième que nous semblons toujours avoir aujourd’hui. La patrie est le lieu ou se rencontre les hommes libres et égaux en droit et le souverain. C’est ainsi qu’il n’y a pas de patrie selon l’Encyclopédie Diderot et d’Alembert là où il y a un tyran comme souverain. Un patriote est donc celui qui défend la liberté et l’égalité, les droits de l’homme, en opposition aux absolutistes monarchistes ou tyrans. C’est en ce sens que les guerres révolutionnaires ont éclaté, c’est en ce sens qu’il faut comprendre la « Marseillaise » comme chant de guerre aux tyrans et à l’oppression et non comme chant de guerre tout court. La nation est aussi définie comme peuple d’Hommes libres et égaux, détenant chacun et chacune une part de la souveraineté.

Rousseau est donc un penseur cosmopolitique mais anti cosmopolites dans le sens des apatrides par rejet à participer à tout projet politique. Comme penseur cosmopolitique il a apporté des solutions, mais ces solutions posent problèmes au projet cosmopolitique : le souverain populaire où s’arrête-t-il ? Qui décide du fractionnement de la souveraineté et comment ? Mais d’un autre côté, l’idée selon laquelle il n’existerait qu’un seul souverain, le genre humain, qu’avancent Cloots et aussi Robespierre pose encore plus de problèmes et n’est toujours pas résolu philosophiquement et bien sûr encore moins politiquement parlant.

Il faudrait d’abord réussir ce tour de force de concilier Rousseau et Cloots, avant de pouvoir imaginer des solutions politiques à l’instauration d’un projet cosmopolitique d’un monde ou tous les êtres humains pourraient vivre libres et égaux en droits, dans le respect de la dignité, et avec les mêmes chances à vivre une vie selon leurs capacités.

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Cosmopolite, cosmopolitain, cosmopolitisme: définitions et problèmes

Que faut-il comprendre aujourd’hui des mots cosmopolite, cosmopolitisme ? D’abord si l’on reprend ‘histoire de l’apparition de ces mots, il faut bien se rendre à l’évidence que notre conception actuelle est liée au paradigme dominant du nationalisme qui nous pousse à y voir une opposition entre cosmopolitisme et nationalisme. J’avance la thèse, en fait, que cela ne va pas de soi, et même plus, que le concept de cosmopolitisme a créé, avant même l’apparition du mot, le concept de nation (je dis bien nation et pas nationalisme). Il faut séparer les notions de nation et nationalisme, ainsi que cosmopolite et cosmopolitisme. En effet, si le mot cosmopolite apparaît à la fin du seizième siècle, celui de cosmopolitisme ne fait son apparition qu’à la fin du dix-neuvième, au moment ou le nationalisme prend son essor dans les sociétés européennes, selon Gellner.

Le mot cosmopolite apparaît en 1560 dans la langue française 1560 dans De la République des Turcs et, là où l’occasion s’offrera, des mœurs et des lois de tous muhamedistes, par Guillaume Postel, cosmopolite. Il s’agit alors d’expliquer une culture au roi de France ; Guillaume Postel étudie et explique la culture de ce pays pour mieux faire valoir que la compréhension de l’autre doit conduire à la paix universelle. C’est un usage du « cosmopolite » qui est en accord avec sa racine grecque, telle que développée par Socrate et Diogène de Synope, et à la suite des cyniques, les stoïciens romains. « Kosmos », l’univers et l’ordre, « polis », la cité ou se prennent les décisions publiques.

Antoine Watteau, "L'Embarkation de Cythère", 1717

Antoine Watteau,

Mais au dix-huitième siècle se développe une culture aristocratique et bourgeoise du voyage. Tout le monde se doit de faire son « tour d’Europe. » Pour une raison qui m’est inconnue encore, le mot cosmopolite se met à désigner ces gens à l’habitat non fixe. Trévoux dans son dictionnaire de 1721 définit à l’article « cosmopolitain, cosmopolitaine »:

« On dit quelquefois en badinant, pour signifier un homme qui n’a pas de demeure fixe, ou bien un homme qui nulle part n’est étranger. » Il ajoute par ailleurs que “On dit ordinairement cosmopolite; et comme on dit néapolitain et constantinopolitain, l’analogie demanderait qu’on dît cosmopolitain. »

Ainsi on est cosmopolitain comme on est napolitain ou romain, ou cosmopolite comme on serait troglodyte. Evidemment, l’Etat-nation moderne n’existait pas encore, la possibilité d’une création identitaire individuelle est encore possible, tout comme n’existent pas, les protections qu’entraîne la citoyenneté-nationalité. Au dix-huitième se développe donc le mot « cosmopolite » indépendamment du concept stoïcien et cynique. Il devient synonyme de ce que l’on désigne aujourd’hui par « transnational. » Par exemple dans Lemercier de la Rivière Ordre naturel et essentiel des libertés politiques (1762): « Ce décroissement sera d’autant plus prompt, que l’industrie est cosmopolite » (t. II, p. 518).

Ainsi, des auteurs, célèbres à l’époque, peuvent écrire des romans traitant de « cosmopolites » voyageurs au milieu du 18e siècle, mêlant le genre du journal de voyage à celui de roman et de critique sociale. Je pense à Fougeret de Monbron et son Le cosmopolite ou le citoyen du monde ou, pour l’Angleterre, Oliver Goldsmith et The Citizen of the World.

C’est vers la fin de ce siècle qu’apparaît une nouvelle expression formée sur le cosmopolite, le « cosmopolisme » avec L’Anglois à Paris. Le Cosmopolisme, publié à Londres… (1770) par V. D. Musset Pathay. Mais c’est surtout Louis-Sébastein Mercier, Victor Hugo du 18e siècle, qui en donne la définition dans Néologie, ou vocabulaire des mots nouveaux, a renouveler, ou pris dans des acceptions nouvelles, an IX (1801):

« Cosmopolisme. Il faut aimer un lieu; l’oiseau lui-même, qui a en partage le domaine des airs, affectionne tel creux d’arbre ou de rocher. Celui qui est atteint de cosmopolisme est privé des plus doux sentiments qui appartiennent au cœur de l’homme.
Qui croirait que l’on peut exercer à Paris le Cosmopolisme, encore mieux que dans le reste de l’univers ? »

Et une nouvelle expression encore, « Cosmopoliter. Parcourir l’univers ». Expression désuète, et c’est bien dommage car elle est bien mignonette : cosmopoliter, le cosmopolitage. Pourtant, dans l’esprit de la fin du siècle il s’agit d’une perte potentielle de repères et d’identité. On dirait presque une maladie dont souffriraient les globe-trotters, le « cosmopolisme ». On peut être « atteint de cosmopolisme » comme on est atteint de paludisme.

Ce que je pense, c’est qu’une certaine notion d’identité nationale a commencé à se former à la période de la révolution, fondée sur l’amour de la patrie et des lois. Certes, il ne s’agit pas de la « nation » telle que la formation de masse que connait la seconde moitié du 19e. Mais le concept de « nation » a lui aussi changé à ce moment, notamment du fait de la nécessité qu’imposait l’influence de la doctrine du droit naturel à trouver un souverain légitime, autre que le tyran, de plus en plus identifié en la personne du roi monarque absolu. Ce glissement ferait l’objet d’une autre étude, mais je pense qu’il est important et lié à la perception que l’on se fait alors du « cosmopolite ». En effet, la pensée politique cherche ce juste souverain, et la république devient un élément important face à la tyrannie. Or, comme le montre si bien Montesquieu, la république entraîne nécessairement le respect de valeurs et morales nécessaires à son bon fonctionnement démocratique. C’est ainsi qu’apparaissent les notions de patriotisme, de patriote, qui ne sont pas nécessairement opposés au cosmopolitisme, mais qui le deviennent au fur et à mesure que se développe la révolution et les ennemis, c’est-à-dire les tyrans et leurs alliés, qui viennent de l’extérieur. L’amour de la patrie et des lois sont les vertus cardinales pour Montesquieu et tous les philosophes du siècle pour que fonctionne une république. Il faut bien comprendre, cela dit en passant, que la patrie désigne l’espace ou le citoyen est libre et non pas le pays où l’on est né.
Evidemment, un cosmopolite changeant de patrie selon son bon vouloir apparaît immanquablement comme un élément perturbateur de cette république : quelle patrie aime-t-il/elle ? quelles lois ? Y en a-t-il seulement une ? C’est je pense, la raison pour laquelle Rousseau apparaît contradictoire dans ces écrits sur les cosmopolites. D’une part il loue ces « grandes âmes » cosmopolites qui se chargent de penser au respect des lois pour le bien commun de l’humanité (Discours sur l’origine et le fondement de l’inégalité parmi les hommes, 1754, Discours sur l’économie politique, 1755), d’autre part il fustige ces cosmopolites qui prétendent aimer tout le monde « pour avoir droit de n’aimer personne » et ne comprennent pas que l’on est d’abord homme en tant que citoyen dans une république avant de l’être dans la grande république de l’humanité (première version du Contrat social, 1887).

En résumé, je pense qu’il faut se méfier du concept qui nous est donné de « cosmopolitisme » et de son lien au « cosmopolite ». Les deux mots n’ont pas existé au même moment car le mot cosmopolitisme n’apparaît que dans la seconde moitié du 19e siècle, curieusement — et je ne pense pas que cela soit fortuit — au même moment que celui de nationalisme. L’acception selon laquelle le cosmopolite est un voyageur est aussi une conception moderne issue du siècle des Lumières. L’idée de cosmopolitisme, si l’on veut penser qu’il s’agit de la doctrine politique incluant toute l’humanité dans une même unité politique afin de favoriser la paix universelle, n’est pas très éloignée du concept de patrie et de nation qui se sont développé, du moins en France, sur ces mêmes prémisses issues du droit naturel. L’essentiel dans le cosmopolitisme est de maintenir l’esprit d’une fondamentale liberté individuelle sur tout, et la nécessaire cohabitation de cette liberté individuelle avec tous, y compris et surtout par rapport aux structures étatiques nationales — qui, je le pense, même si elles permettent le développement de cette liberté par une protection juridique, économique et sociale, sont aussi très structurantes dans l’imposition d’une identité supposée « nationale » sur l’individu. Il y a là, entre cette liberté individuelle fondamentale et cette structure d’organisation pacifique universelle, tout un champ immense d’exploration.

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Scandinavian literary weekend

This weekend was under the sign of cosmopolitan literature.

First of all, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio received the Nobel Prize in literature: ‘author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization.’ This was the occasion for me to deepen my acquaintance with Le Clézio’s works. I started reading his first novel, Le Procès-Verbal, for which he obtained at the age of 23 the Renaudot Prize — a prestigious French literary prize, awarded by journalists and critiques.

In Paris, where I currently resides, is organised yearly a literary event called ‘Lire en fête’ or ‘Party for reading’. This was the occasion to attend to two events with a Danish and a Swedish writer, very different the one from the other.

Jan Sonnergård, born 1963, became famous in Denmark with the publication of a short novels collection entitled Radiator published in 1997, to which succeded Sidste Søndag i Oktober (last Sunday in October) in 2000, and Jeg er stadig bange for Caspar Michael Petersen (I am still afraid of Caspar Michael Petersen), 2003. The name ‘Radiator’ was chosen because one of his literature professor declared that it was not possible to imagine ever using this word in a novel. This trilogy describes three classes of people in their meaningless existence in Denmark during the nineties. The language is extremely provoking, as the title ‘Radiator’ was meant to be. The first short novel Jan read, from Radiator, is written in a language close to a techno beat, and was uttered just as fast by a reader wearing an agressive blue and red Spiderman shirt. A group of young underprivileged have decided it was ‘payback time’ as they are going to loot a discount supermarket of its best products, and walk a rampage tour in an aggressive and nihilist cynicism, attacking anyone on the way. Another one told the story of a middle-class couple, leaving the most hypocritical life in their knowledge of the wife’s affairs with other men. The last one, told the story of a young drug addict from the upper class. These short-novels represent for me exactly the Copenhagen I experienced during my years 2001-2006, as I read his short-novels at this time, and as I was experiencing a different kind of life in Copenhagen.

Jan read three short novels, cut with jazz music interpreted by a trio tenor sax, bass, guitar led by the Danish saxophonist Martin Jacobsen. They were soothing the harsh tone of Jan’s stories, perhaps to remind of the higher value, the ideal of perfection that humankind is also capable of aspiring to in its unquenchable thirst for eternity.

Jonas Hassen Khemiri, born 1978 in Sweden, is a writer of Tunisian descent who explores the relation of language and power, and questions identity through language-plays in his two novels. He was in Paris to present and talk about his last novel recently translated into French. French was for him a ‘family language’, to which he declares having a vocabulary related to those things. Still, he displayed a good command of the language and was able to introduce to the audience a very vivid understanding of his world views in the novel Montecore-En unik tiger (Montecore: a unique Tiger), which won the Swedish P O Enquist literary Prize in 2006. It is not possible to translate such a book, and especially in French, since French is part of the book in Swedish. In the French translation, Lucile Clauss and Max Stadler decided to imagine a different character than the Swedish one, more accessible to French readers, by transforming him into a Tunisian man whose use of French is transformed into a reverence to what is perceived as high culture, and hence using formal language.

It is possible to read an interesting Chat in Le Monde with Jonas, in which he explains his relation to language and identity.

I have thought a lot on identity, language, globalisation and cosmopolitanism this weekend, from a literary perspective. Every language is tightly related to a country, or a society more specifically, and at the same time, it is completely autonomous of it. Jan used today’s street language to describe in the same violent and aggressive way some of today’s capitalist conditions. The focus is very tight, and the limits set to today’s Copenhagen. How to translate such conditions and languages? In French the academy is still impregnating minds with an idea of extreme reverence to French. To the point that in such a way, French is a dead language. French writers are also respecting the language very much. Jonas is inventing expressions creating verbs from words, imagining a new language to stick to a character who is a writer born in Sweden, but from a Tunisian father speaking French, and of course globe trotter in the world where English is the new lingua franca.

Language seems to be the country for Le Clézio, in all his travels, and also for Jonas, who is extending the limits of language beyond the borders. Jan, in a different way, limits even more the language to fake internal limits, in order to better denounce them in a violent super-realism. Still, it is very difficult to find proper ways to communicate such new ways, since translations work inside the nationalist paradigm, and intend to interpret for a supposed “national” audience, pieces of work which are transnational, supranationa, or infranational. The solution would be the creation of a succesful literary theory to transcend these problems. A cosmopolitan literary theory?

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Thesis graded

My thesis has been graded and I received the best grade possible in the Danish system: 12. That makes it an A in the ECTS system. Plus an excellent assessment of my work by my supervisor and my ‘censor’. I am very happy and very proud. Still, it does not give me a relevant job in London.

Now I sincerely hope to be able to continue the research project in a PhD dissertation. The natural place that comes to my mind for such a multi-disciplinary and transcultural research project is the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.

My MA thesis is an original contribution to answer an important contemporary question: ‘What is cosmopolitanism?’ It focuses on answering ‘how the discourse of cosmopolitanism entered Western political thought?’ The prefered area and time of study in the thesis is the French Enlightenment.

In my PdD research project I would like to expand the research to England and Scotland, and (what is now) Germany. I wish to investigate more the relation of natural law theory, and the metaphysics behind theories of human rights that are at play in cosmopolitanism. Another alternative would be to expand to nineteenth century political thought. In the best of all possible worlds I would do both, but I am afraid that some focus must be put in this study on either a diachronic or synchronic analysis.

I see the project as an important bridge between the history of ideas and political theory. I hope to be able to make a contribution to put forth some solutions to issues that globalisation entails, by clearing up this obscure concept we call cosmopolitanism.

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Looking for a job in London

Yes, it's me.

I am currently unable to find some time to post more on cosmopolitanism. I am dividing my time between my current part-time job, and my job search as I am moving to London on 1 October. I am also looking for an accommodation. As soon as my situation is stabilised, I shall be able to post again. For the moment being, all my energy is drained by this constant invisible competition that I face each time I am writing a new job application and re-tuning my CV. Tough to join the workforce.

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The state of the Iranian state

Ghostvillage in Kurdistan/Iran 2006

Ghostvillage in Kurdistan/Iran 2006

My Armenian Iranian friends tell me a lot about the state of the Iranian state — or the lack thereof. I was surprised to hear that there are no taxes in Iran, neither direct or indirect. Sounds like paradise for neo-liberals — besides the absence of liberal rights. And in return for the 0% tax rate, citizens are entitled to zero service. No social security, no social benefit, no retirement fund, no health care, nothing. All is dealt with a little hustling and help from the friends.

So where does the state gets its money from if not from tax revenues one may ask? Well, the state gets the money from state-owned companies in the industrial sector extracting oil, minerals — especially uranium — or in the primary sector. Basically the state does not care a monkey’s about the economy and how people are doing with business. What the government is interested in is what is in people’s minds and how to control it. The economy is left entirely to the private sector.

Before 1979, the situation was not so bad for Armenians and other minorities. It is only since the revolution that the new authority installed a one way type of thought and educated the people into believing in these types of dichotomies: faithful/unfaithful Muslim/non-Muslim, friend/enemy, us/them. Of course the average Joe (or in that case the average Hossein) just follows the movement and gets full of hatred without understanding much why. It is a shame I am told, since Iranians are naturally very hospitable and polite people. Not anymore since the 1979 revolution. Only educated and intelligent people are able to distance themselves from the social pressure imposed. Of course they all fly from the country as soon as possible, unfortunately. There is thus an amazing brain-drain from the country. In the long run, it will only be a piece of land inhabited by uneducated peasants, led by self-‘educated’ theologian fanatics.

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Master’s thesis submited

Today I submitted my master’s thesis; three copies by snail mail — I had to choose airmail for the shortest possible delay. I guess that makes it the less environmental-friendly thesis of all. Now I am crossing my fingers for the best mark, so that I can proudly send it as a writing sample to Ph.D. applications. It was a difficult moment to let it go. The past month I just spent my time re-reading and re-reading, re-editing and re-editing my thesis in order to make sure everything was just perfect. Of course, Microsoft Office was there to screw perfection up. I had to correct plenty of small details, compatibility issues, and sloppy automated functions. After printing I still noticed a little mistake. It’s nothing really but enough to annoy the hell out of me, because it is a mistake done by a software that is clearly not as perfectionist as I am. Of course it is my own fault that I chose Ms Word to write my thesis with. I should have known better. At the beginning of the writing process I considered giving LaTeX a try, but then I figured that it would take too long to learn how to properly use it. Now, I have plenty of time, and I am definitely investing this time into digging all sorts of productivity softwares: LyX, LaTeX, BibTeX, time management tools, Linux OS, wiki, blog, web 2.0, etc.

Letting it go was a painful moment. Now I have a huge void in my daily routine. I don’t have the pleasure to sit at my computer and work on this piece of intellectual achievement. My only wish now is that this coming year passes as swiftly as possible and that I get accepted for a Ph.D. at a great university (my two best choices right now are Cambridge and the European University Institute) to continue this thesis into a dissertation. My primary concern now is to build up a convincing and competitive CV for my Ph.D. application. It is a little bit frightening because I don’t really know what truly matters for Ph.D. and grants applications. I have to get a good job in London for one year, possibly related to research for experience. I wonder if I should send some parts of my thesis as article to peer-reviewed journals. If anyone has any words of advice to give me, they will be very much appreciated.

Posted in MA thesis, NICTs for academics | 7 Comments

Link to RSF’s advice for foreign journalists covering human rights situation during Beijing Games

\'La censure.\'

Georges Lafosse: 'La censure.'

So it seems that the next Olympic games will be a tremendous communication-information-sign-warfare. In this communication battle that history showed totalitarian regimes always win — although they do not win the war — democratic countries are most probably going to lose. Simple: most of the Western wishful-thinking amateur human rights organisations are more interested in protesting for the sake of good conscience than to actually change the situation in China and improve their lives; anyway they are powerless in this respect and all they can do is to prevent from giving the Chinese authorities any levy to control their communication about the ‘imperial West’ and boost Chinese nationalistic pride by showing e.g. images of extremists desperately trying to jump on a woman in a wheelchair to turn off the Olympic torch. On the other end, governments have decided to participate and be present, and they are very unlikely to make any action that would have a communication impact directed towards the people, which could breach the carefully planned Chinese communication. The Chinese authorities can easily cut any uncomfortable speech, as long as they have images of world leaders assisting the ceremony to show to the Chinese masses. What would be difficult to censor would be any visible sign that world leaders would wear, a bit like a big T-shirt or something protesting against human rights abuses. But this is unlikely to happen. The battle for communication with the Chinese people is lost in advance, but at least ‘we’ should have the right to know and not be the victims of censorship of ‘our’ journalists in China.

Here is a link to advices for journalists in Beijing for bypassing Chinese control of information and possible censorship to ‘our’ right of information:

http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=27991

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Ulrich Beck: A New Cosmopolitanism is in the Air

Here is a link to an article by German sociologist Ulrich Beck published in November 2007, which is a translation of the original into English:

http://www.signandsight.com/features/1603.html

It is quite summing up the arguments developed in his three last books on cosmopolitanism — Power in the Global Age: A New Political Economy (2002/2006); Cosmopolitan Vision (2004/2006); ; Cosmopolitan Europe (2007) — from a sociological perspective — i.e. replacing ‘methodological nationalism’ with ‘methodological cosmopolitanism’ in order to study the ‘cosmopolitanisation’ of societies and the global relations of power at stake. This theoretical approach is based on the meta-theory of ‘reflexive modernisation’ or ‘second modernisation’ in which we live in, developed in Risk society and extended in World Risk Society: On the Search for Lost Security (1999): we have moved from industrial society and nation-states thought in the paradigm of modern rationality, to a service-based society and undefined political entities in a paradigm of reflexiv identities, socially constructed.

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Todorov: La conquête de l’Amérique, La question de l’autre

La conquête de l'Amérique

Todorov: La conquête de l'Amérique

Todorov, Tzvetan. La conquête de l’Amérique : la question de l’autre. Paris: Seuil, 1982.

In this book, Tzvetan Todorov, renowned Franco-Bulgarian writer and director of research at the Centre National de Recherches (CNRS) in Paris, investigates the Spanish conquest of Central America (the Caribbean and Mexico) during the sixteenth century. His research topic is the perception of the ‘Indians’ by the Spaniards. What Todorov wants to investigate is ‘how to behave towards the other?’ The Spanish conquest, which is responsible of the death of 40-70 million people, is a good example of behaviour in front of otherness, since 1492 marks the date ‘our’ medieval minds enter modernity through the discovery of a new world. How did Europeans behave towards people who may have seemed to be from a different planet? Todorov sketches different types of behaviour, based on historical actors of the conquest.

Todorov sums up his study of various historical writings with his own ‘Typologies of relationships with others’, which constitutes an axis of research of the different levels on which behaviours towards otherness is based:
1. Axiologic plan: value judgement (good/bad, love/hate).
2. Praxeologic plan: closeness or foreignness (identification/ignorance, assimilation/rejection)
3. Epistemic plan: acknowledgement or indifference.

On these levels, Todorov studied the following historical figures:

Cristobal Colon

Cristobal Colón

Colombus: no identification, no knowledge, negative attitude. Christopher Colombus was primarily moved by his fanatic religious faith. He did not want to discover a new route to the Indies for his own glory, for gold, nor for the Queen of Spain. What motivated him was the celebration of God’s glory. Indians were just as the lands newly discovered, a blank sheet ready to be written upon by the Spaniards for their own benefit. He painted an idyllic portrait of the Indians upon his arrival, based on his own fantasies more than reality: beautiful people in the inside on the outside, good-hearted and kind, generous and indifferent to money, but cowards and fragile — easy to conquer. He wants Indians to be like him, and in that he is a naive assimilationist. His project is to Christianise the Indians, and in that he sees things the way he pleases by observing that the Indians already bare Christian characteristics. In doing so, Colombus becomes a pro-slaver and from the principle of Christian equality he unconsciously considers Indians to be inferior in order to be exploited materially and colonised spiritually. The propagation of faith and the submission to slavery are two sides of the same coin for Colombus. Even outside this project, Indians are considered as innate objects for his own ‘ethnological’ studies: he denies them to possess individual will. For Todorov thus, ‘Colombus discovered America, not the Americans’ (p. 54).

Bartolome de las Casas

Bartolome de las Casas

Las Casas: no knowledge, love for ‘Indians.’ Las Casas was touched by the massacres committed towards the ‘Indians’ and decided to attempt at protecting them. He did not however developed a great knowledge of them nor did he learn their language. He even attempted to justify the human sacrifices they were committing through arguing about ‘natural reason’ and that it is their way to adore God, by giving the greatest sacrifice of all: human life. According to Las Casas, thus there is a universal love of God, but all religious expressions of this love are culturally specific, and as such relative. As a consequence, Christianity is not the only nor the best way to God. Barbarism is a relative notion as well. One is always a barbarian to others, and vice versa as long as one does not recognise the language being spoken. Whereas for some the Christian principle of the equality of men ensues the assimilation of ‘Indians’ because they are similar to us, Las Casas deduces the perspectivism of it. Las Casas’ political solution to the ‘Indians’ is to maintain previous states with their Kings and governors, with catholic preaches but without the military, and if the Kings express this wish, to establish a sort of federation presided by the King of Spain. They must be given their original freedom back and be reinstated in their sovereignty.

Vasco de Quiroga

Vasco de Quiroga

Vasco de Quirioga: no knowledge of ‘Indians’ and no identification, but a positive attitude. For him, Spaniards are a declining culture, whereas Indians constitute a rising civilisation in history. However, they are not perfect and must be worked upon. Instead of asking kings, Vasco de Quirioga acts directly upon Indians, and is inspired in this by Thomas Moore’s Utopia. He organised two utopian villages around Mexico.  He is an assimilationist.

Gonzalo Guerrero

Gonzalo Guerrero

Gonzalo Guerrero: After a shipwreck, he was the one of the survivors who reached the Mexican shores in 1511. He was taken by the Indians and sold as a slave. He learned the language and managed to acquire a high social status by teaching war, and winning quite a few of them. He married a woman from the nobility and painted himself in the manner of the Indians, let his hair grow and pierced his ears. Having established his life with the Indians, he transformed himself into a complete identification. He even fought against the Spaniards during which battle he lost his life.

Cortes

Hernán Cortés

Cortés: great knowledge, negative attitude. Cortés wants primarily to understand, and in that he differs from other conquistadores in that he has a historical and political consciousness of his actions. In that, his first difficulty is to find an interpreter. During one conquest, a woman is given to the Spaniards, named Malintzin — the frequent name given being La Malinche. Her talent for languages places her as interpreter to Cortés, and also her lover from whom he will have a kid, one of the first mixed child. He will use all the information gathered to his advantage in conquering the Indians. He will have a deep understanding of the Indians’ use of signs and exploit them to his advantage in order to inspire fear and appear as a hero. The Indians would even ask Cortés to act on their favour to fight their own enemies. Cortés’ principal preoccupation is what the Indians will interpret from his actions and speeches. The message he wants to give is strategically planned — it is an information warfare, one could say. He wants to control all details of communication, and even regarding the image of his army. Indian tells confirms the success of Cortés’ communication warfare: the Aztec King, Moctezuma, believed that Cortés was the return of Quetzalcoatl to take his empire. This communication warfare will extend beyond Cortés in the imposition by the Spaniards of Nahuatl as the official Mexican language at first, and then the Hispanic of the country through the study of local languages, and the teaching of Spanish. The first Grammar book of a European language would be produce at that time: Spanish grammar by Antonio de Nebrija who wrote in his introduction: ‘… siempre la lengua fue compañera del imperio…’

La Malinche

La Malinche

La Malinche: complete identification with the Spaniards and assimilation to their culture. Worked as a translator to Cortés and a bridge between the two cultures. As such she acquired a high status in the Indian collective mind. She exemplifies mixture, melting rather than purity. She studies Spanish culture in order to also better understand her own — even if it is to destroy it. She became essential to Cortés’ business, and also acquired a particular place in Indians’ myths, which is testified by all the cartoons drawn of her in a central place in between Indians and Spaniards.

Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca

Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca

Cabeza de Vaca: This conquistador was forced to live with the Indians after a shipwreck. In order to survive he practised two professions: trade, and shaman or doctor. In doing so he imitates the local healers, and adds some catholic prayers. He adopts their trades, customs, clothing, but never forgets his identity. As soon as he found his way, he took the first ship back to Spain, and ‘civilisation.’ He helds the Indians with great esteem and does not want to do them harm. The evangelisation must be conducted without violence. He acquires a precise knowledge of their way of life, in order to act upon them for their conversion, and also to pass this knowledge to other conquistadors who will use it to sumbit them. His identification is thus deep but without implication. He wrote Relacion de las cosas de Yucatan a great historical monument on Mayas’ past, but he also decided the autodafe of all Mayan books. There is however no contradiction as he was an assimilationist in Yucatan and burned books, and wrote this historical book in Spain as a scholar in order to defend himself of his acts in a court of law.

Durán Codex

Durán Codex

Durán: Also known as the ‘Durán Codex,’ The History of the Indies of New Spain was published c. 1581. Durán also wrote Book of the Gods and Rites (1574-1576), and Ancient Calendar, (c. 1579). He gathered a great and deep knowledge of the Indians for the purpose of imposing Catholic religion and erase all traces of pagan rites. ‘Know thy enemy’ seems to be his motto. In this quest he is radical in the elimination of all idolatry: confession of the dreams, prevention of religious syncretism, destruction of all related monuments. All ancient customs must disappear. However, Durán tries to explain the Mexican realities to the Europeans through analogies and comparisons. Some Mexican religious customs are compared to the Christian ones. In Durán’s mind this comparison serves to argue that the Indians are indeed Christians. The Aztec are thus a lost tribe of Israel. So this religious syncretism that he tries so hard to eradicate, he practices it with his gaze upon the Indians. He shares the Indian way of life in order to understand them, he understands both cultures, and as such, his work is enlightening. Throughout his books he clearly separates the Aztec point of view from his own, but at some point he is losing this separation and claims the point of view of the historian telling the tale of heroes and the glory of Mexico. In other words, he loses these two identities (Spanish and Aztec) and creates the very first new Mexican identity. With La Malinche he is one of the first Mexicans.

Sahagun

Sahagun

Sahagun: Franciscan ‘linguist’, not part of the aristocracy or high ranked religious — who dispised having to lower themselves to learning Indian culture and language, so he learned the language — Nahuatl — and learned to live together with the ‘indians.’ He was professor of Latin grammar in the Franciscan college of Tlatelolco dedicated to forming the Mexican elite from the former nobility. In order to propagate better Christianism he projected to write the history of the ancient Mexican religion. His Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España would occupy him for forty years. However, his project was also dedicated to develop knowledge of and preserve the Nahuatl culture. In order to do so, he chose to report faithfully the testimonies he collected with a translation, instead of replacing them by it.This translation constitutes more an interpretation
from the original text. His interventions in the text are not only rare, but clearly separated from the rest. They are characterised by an intention to avoid moral judgements and attempt to explain from other known civilisations such as Ancient Rome. Obviously, however, the knowledge is organised in a European way through answers to a European-made questionnaire. Sahagun saw the terrible consequences of the replacement of the Aztec civilisation by the Spaniards. He dreamt of the creation of an ideal state that would be Mexican and Christian — a city of God.

From Historia General de las cosas de Nueva España

Todorov categorises Sahagun in his ‘typology of relationships to otherness’ as a believer of the Christian doctrine of equality between men. However, even if he learns the language and the culture of the ‘Indians,’ he maintains his identity, and even idealise the ‘Indians.’ What is interesting in his work for Todorov, is the massive knowledge that he accumulated without perpetrating any qualitative judgement. His work can be qualified as ‘ethnography’ as he is just collecting information without interpretation, and making only a timid comparison with Ancient Rome, but without being comparative. For him, cultures cannot be hybrid nor should they be; cultures stay in their own rights untouched. Nonetheless, Todorov sees there the embryo to any future dialogue between civilisations that we today experience.

Todorov’s book is highly recommandable for an introduction to reflexion on our behaviour towards other people in early modernity. In our world of reflexiv modernity, these have changed very much. The question of identity is not fixed but flexible, the question of hybridisation is not an impossible thought but a daily reality. This is the heart of all problems for cosmopolitan theory: how to form universal standards if all standards are by definition locally situated? Even if one is fluent in two or three or more cultures, it cannot possibly encompass all of them to grasp some commonality or acceptable form of universality for all. The debate is currently set on human rights as the smallest common denominator, but even they are Western-based. Of course, human rights are a good thing, but they mean a Western imposition nonetheless, even if for the greater good.’ Are ‘we’ ready to accept other forms of imposition on ‘our’ mentality if they are potentially ‘good’ for humankind? After all, one should reflect upon the fact that in all our exchanges with ‘foreigners’ we are acting in a historical manner, even if playing a tiny part as a tourist.

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