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Cosmopolitan motivation, political theory and political psychology



A major recent trend in normative political theory has been the development of radical ‘cosmopolitan’ theories. It has frequently been claimed, for instance, that justice requires equality of opportunity between persons worldwide (not just between citizens of particular states) or that global circumstances are such that there is now a case for globalised democracy.

One obvious practical problem for cosmopolitans is that there does not currently exist the political will to realise their ambitious political visions. Indeed, contemporary politics, featuring rising nationalist sentiment and virulent pushback against ‘globalism’, evidences, if anything, a trend in an anti-cosmopolitan direction.

The problem of political will is occasionally recognised by cosmopolitan theorists, who nevertheless express varying levels of optimism that such cosmopolitan ‘motivation’ can arise. Opposing this optimism is a sceptical line of thought which claims that a widespread cosmopolitan motivation can either (a) never arise, or (b) never arise without unacceptable moral costs. If this sceptical position is correct, it importantly undermines the prospects for our being able to respond effectively and democratically to contemporary global problems like climate change, global financial instability, and the displacement of refugees.

Neither the optimistic nor the sceptical position, however, engage as fully as they might with the wealth of relevant empirical data now available, particularly in the field of political psychology. This is despite continued calls for political theory to pay more attention to relevant empirical research. The aim of this workshop is therefore to bring political theory and political psychology into conversation regarding the prospects for cosmopolitanism, and to engage in, rather than simply recommend, a more empirically informed political theory.

Questions which panel papers might address include but are not limited to:

  • Is cosmopolitanism too psychologically demanding?
  • Is global political identity possible or plausible?
  • What is the relationship between intra-state inequality and support for cosmopolitan principles?
  • Which strategies of cosmopolitan communication are effective in motivating cosmopolitan political action?
  • What is the relationship between historical injustice and contemporary support for the idea of cosmopolitanism?

Papers for the workshop will be pre-circulated. We welcome submissions from a range of relevant fields and from scholars at any career stage.