Nation-States and Cosmopolitans … an Ellipsis from Ignatieff

Nation-States and Cosmopolitans … an Ellipsis from Ignatieff

Greetings, everyone – Ken Anderson here. My thanks to Peter and all my friends at Opinio Juris for inviting me as a guest. I am actually guest-blogging next week on Opinio Juris, and am quite fascinated with this book discussion. Peter kindly invited me to join in, but I have been lobbying an editor to let me review Peter’s splendid book, and I think I might damage chances if I say anything substantive here … on a blog (!!)

But the one thing I will add to this conversation is a quote from Michael Ignatieff, his 1990s book, Blood and Belonging. I would be curious as to how, or whether, Peter or others thinks it fits within the discussion of citizenship:

“It is only too apparent that cosmopolitanism is the privilege of those who can take a secure nation-state for granted … The cosmopolitan order of the great cities – London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris – depends critically on the rule-enforcing capacities of the nation-state … In this sense, therefore, cosmopolitans like myself are not beyond the nation; and a cosmopolitan, post-nationalist spirit will always depend, in the end, on the capacity of nation-states to provide security and civility for their citizens. In that sense alone, I am a civic nationalist, someone who believes in the necessity of nations and in the duty of citizens to defend the capacity of nations to provide the security and the rights we all need in order to live cosmopolitan lives.”

I should add that I once quoted this to a class on just war theory and the laws of war, a class at Harvard in the mid-1990s with a large number of US military officers doing a year at the Kennedy School. One of them raised his hand and said, “Well, the cosmopolitan types always expect the citizen types to sacrifice and die for them – and not being very smart, we do.”

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