Cosmopolis:

The order of nature as it relates to the political unit.

Within his second chapter, Toulmin gives some insight into his decision to name his book Cosmopolis. The World, according to Toulmin, is divided into two distinct Orders: the Order of Nature, and the Order of Society (67). Nature operates on a perpetual cycle, such as the cyclical nature of the seasons and the changes in the tide. This natural Order – the cosmos, as the Greeks refer to it – is rational, acting without discrimination or prejudice. This contrasts the polis – the Order of Society. Unlike Nature, Society is characterized by the irrational actions of man. Toulmin discusses the irrationality of the polis in his examination of the tensions between the Catholic majority and the Protestant minority in 17th-century Europe. He recounts the “Massacre of Saint Bartholomew,” an event in which Protestant gentry were slaughtered during their stay in Paris to attend the royal wedding of Henri of Nevarre and Marguerite de Valois. This gruesome act was one steeped in prejudice, juxtaposing the nondiscriminatory quality of Nature. Perhaps, then, the term cosmopolis seeks to rationalize the polis by fusing it with the cosmos. In order to achieve a cosmopolis, a rational and inclusive society, Society must adopt the ways of Nature. This is supported by Plato’s Republic where he alludes that the rational order of the cosmos gives hope for the rationalization of the polis (Toulmin 68).

Globalization supports cosmopolitanism; it encourages the convergence and subsequent integration of different cultures into an otherwise homogeneous polis. In his own consideration of the Order of Society, Kwame Anthony Appiah discusses the gradual emergence of cosmopolitanism. He asserts that, largely, cosmopolitanism is a good thing because “[it] tempers a respect for difference with a respect for actual human beings” (Appiah 113). That being said, it is historically true that attempts at cosmopolitanism are met with backlash. This is evidenced by the murder of Henri IV following his attempts at reducing the role of religion in politics; the Black Codes in response to the abolition of slavery in the 19th century; and the “whitelash” following the election of the first Black president.

Toulmin suggests that, like Nature, human beings have the capacity to act in rationality. However, as Donald Trump’s victory demonstrates, any progression towards a cosmopolis is met with hostility. Is it possible, then, to apply natural laws to humanity? Are human beings capable of being rational actors?

– Rekea

 

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2 thoughts on “Cosmopolis:

  1. This blog post made me re-evaluate the relationship between globalization and cosmopolitanism. While I found your argument that globalization supports cosmopolitanism, as it “it encourages the convergence and subsequent integration of different cultures into an otherwise homogeneous polis”, I also think that there is a strong divergence between the two. While cosmopolitanism argues that all human beings have a shared morality, belonging to a common, single community, I also have seen globalization being viewed as a zero-sum game rather than a win-win situation for all. While the idea of the cosmopolis of which you state involves a “rational and inclusive society” is ideal, in reality I believe that globalization has worked to exploit the third world realm to the benefit of the developed nations. Toulmin’s examination of the rational and irrational order of nature and society and your emphasis on historical attempts at cosmopolitanism being met with backlash make me question whether or not the rational acts of man will always be met by some form of hostility, or irrationality.

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  2. Hey Rekea,
    I found some points of your post really interesting, especially in regards to questioning our current society and cosmopolis. While cosmopolis sounds great, it sounds too ideal. Is it possible to really have it? Even if we reached some type of rational society, there would never be complete cohesion between everyone since we do not have a shared morality. It makes me wonder if there will be a moment when our country comes back together, or such unity be squashed because of how strong our oppositions to each other are. In terms of globalization supporting cosmopolitanism, I would have to disagree because I think while it brings some cohesion, it is not always equal because there is a not a shared morality. As much as it involves everyone, that is no longer a choice about whether or not to be involved in the ever increasingly global world.
    -Jane

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