SEYLA BENHABIB’s Another Cosmopolitanism: Hospitality, Sovereignty, and Democratic Iterations

28 07 2009

SEYLA BENHABIB

Another Cosmopolitanism: Hospitality, Sovereignty, and Democratic Iterations

Revised

By Rany Ibrahim

“A man who is incapable of entering into partnership, or who is so self-sufficient that he has no need to do so, is no part of a state, so that he must be either a lower animal or a god.”[1]

            “Cosmopolitanism,” which derives from the Greek word “kosmopolitês,” has been used to describe socio-political philosophy as”citizen of the world,” The concept of cosmopolitanism is the idea that all human beings, apart from their political affiliations, do belong to a single universal community. The philosophy of cosmopolitanism can be in forms of political institutions, moral relationships, and cultural expressions. There are several challenges that nationalism, self determination, or patriotism faces with cosmopolitanism worldwide.[2] The United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a growing global concept with the idea that all people should share the same basic rights everywhere with an international superiority over domestic legislations.  The standards of human rights in universal hospitality and justice context were challenged by immigrants and newcomers on many occasions. Seyla Benhabib, as a political philosopher, highlights cosmopolitanism challenges that appear between diversity and inclusion versus sense of national and cultural identity through three axes: global-local, religious-cultural, and ethnographic-geopolitical. Benhabib brings examples from two Western European countries, France and Germany, which have a significant number of newcomers and immigrants within the fabric of their societies. France has millions of immigrants from its former colonies in Africa and South East Asia, and Germany has millions of immigrants that helped in rebuilding the country after World War II with a considerable number from Turkey. [3]

Benhabib states that global social order entered a new chapter with the progression of human rights from a system of domestic and international laws that designed to promote human rights to cosmopolitan forms of justice that all of humanity belongs to a single community based on a shared morality started with the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. She also argues the development of Kant’s notion of “universal hospitality” in the activities of democratic states which advocate cosmopolitan human rights.[4] Bonny Ibhawoh argues the impact of international and transnational elements crosses borderlines, and that there are “links between globalization and the emergence of cosmopolitan moral order, in the form of human rights norms.” In other words, the moral order is no longer characteristic to states but also to non-state actors. [5] One example is in the European liberal democracies where non-citizens trying to achieve a number of political, legal and social status.  Aliens, foreigners, second-class citizens are definitions that being challenged under the cosmopolitan view of human rights. The newcomer will remain an outsider unless the concept of inclusion hospitality is not believed by local citizens. Bhikhu Parekh discusses minority culture among immigrants that they expected to learn and accept the norms and customs of the host society, or a two way process of accommodation, in which the members of the host society also learn and respect the norms and customs of immigrants,” diversity can seem inconvenient for, and at worst fatal to, the universality claim for human rights.”[6] The universal concept of human rights and the right of humanitarian interventions overrides state borders, and that “the sovereign of the state to dispose of life, liberty, and property of its citizens or residents in not unconditional or unlimited.”[7] This cosmopolitan concept lacks clarity to the challenge of our interpretation guidelines of liberty, equality, democracy human rights in the context of multi-ethnic, culture, and national states.

Benhabib, through Adolf Eichmann genocide trial by the State of Israel, explains the expansion of the universal moral claims for humanity in the international political objective of human rights norms in international law. Benhabib argues that the state of Israel did a mistake in the trial of Adolf Eichmann by accusing him with a “wrong charge,” a “crime against Jewish people” instead of a “crime against humanity.” Instead of going for the universality of human rights approach, the state of Israel used the technical political approach through its domestic interpretation. [8] A cosmopolitanism broader view of rights should be accessible and recognized as minimum standards worldwide.

The human rights challenges which long-term residents, newcomers, or immigrants still face is clear during their integration process in the mainstream society in host states. The integration difficulty reflects strongly on Benhabib’s analysis of the French Muslim girl example. A historical background to this cultural-political clash will help in analyzing the source of the present cultural conflicts in many European countries between immigrants and the local population. France always showed historical interest in North Africa, especially in its former colonies Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.  Presently, there are about three million Muslims living in France, most of them coming from North Africa, particularly Algeria. With over 1,500 mosques, Muslims have become the second largest religious community after the Roman Catholics. [9] The government of France introduced a bylaw forbidding the wearing of “ostentatious religious insignia” in French schools from all religions. On 22 October 1989, thousands of Muslims demonstrated in Paris in support of several Muslim girls who were banned from their school for wearing the head scarf (Islamic Hijab). In this case, Benhabib reveals that the local community with its mixture of indigenous citizens and newcomers, whether they are temporary or permanent residents, have a global view of rights within the local context. A new level of rights of mutual respect and hospitality overrides at times what can be considered a local tradition.  The voice of the local community—with a considerable overlapping mixture of legal, ethnic, demographic, and political groups that might share the religious background or the global freedoms ideology—united and voiced their concerns to the French government. This “national trauma” questioned the philosophical foundation of the French revolution, which is based on “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” verses the “separation between church and state,” and understanding boundaries of “liberalism” versus “multiculturalism” in French life.[10]

The notion of “private sphere” and “public sphere” came across during the debate with a private clothing item that is shared in public sphere, and what this clothing item represents to the girl who is wearing it and to the society.  To the girl, the item of clothing is part of her private identity but once she wears it in public, it acts as a political statement that challenges ideology of the French public sphere, which is based on the French law. The most powerful argument that this girl made was that this action is challenging a basic human right which is “freedom of religion.” I would add that, perhaps, she also can argue that her “right of physical integrity to be fulfilled” was violated as well – as in Islamic tradition a woman’s veil is a significant part of her physical integrity.[11] In my opinion, French tradition and culture was challenged by a newcomer that they thought was trying to impose a backwards culture and foreign way of life on the French society. As harsh a view as it sounds, it is still a valid for Western liberal democracies, in which the majority of people choose to live under certain conditions while trying to accommodate minorities within a reasonable space.

A cosmopolitan understanding of hospitality in host societies works in a “vibrant liberal multicultural democracy” that continues to test citizens’ limits of their “overlapping consensus.”[12]  John Rawls following statement explains the expectations for such situation:

“Democratic society viewed as a system of fair cooperation among free and equal citizens who willingly accept, as politically autonomous, the publicly recognized principals of justice determining the fair terms of that cooperation. The society in question, however, is one in which there is a diversity of comprehensive doctrines, all perfectly reasonable.”[13]

 

The cooperation concept in Rawls underestimated the importance of culture as a primary good for the foundation of individual lives.  People need a sense of established range of options to choose from. To maintain one “freedom’ one needs a level of ‘self-respect’ and other guarantees to access opportunities in Rawls’s list of primary goods in theory of justice.[14] The French society is struggling between principals of justice and protecting their cultural choices and identity. The society is facing a struggle to identify or agree on what is reasonable for all. This problem becomes more difficult when trying to make sudden changes within a deeply bounded French culture expecting sudden cultural evolutions. Thomas Pogge explains similar challenges that while human rights are a universal declaration, they’re bound by normative reach with “nationalistic interpretation” where every person’s responsibility for the fulfilment of human rights is limited to the boundaries of his or her society.”[15] Based on Pogge opinion, we are limited to the boundaries that the French society allocated to every member equally.

Benhabib argues that the rights that are associated with citizenship, despite limitations of nationality and territoriality, were broadened and that cosmopolitanism reformed and recreated a new meaning of citizenship with moral rights versus political rights. In a cosmopolitan model, long-term residents are empowered to seek inclusion in the political decision making process in their local democratic communities. This new concept faces the challenge of “homogeneity” and national identity of societies. Brian Barry defines exclusion from a society if: a person is a “resident in a society,” a person is “geographically resident” in a society, “cannot participate in the normal activities of citizens in that society and would like to so participate, but is prevented from doing so by factors beyond his or her control,” and that exclusion main danger is that it dilutes the foundation of social solidarity. [16] Benhabib’s German voting laws example of 1990 opened the debate of who is a “demo” and who is “ethnos” within a nation. In 1990, a German Federal Constitutional Court turned down the ruling of the provincial assembly of Schleswig-Holstein granting the citizens of six European states who had lived in that province for five or more years the right to participate in local elections on the grounds of reciprocity.[17] The German high court argued that the right to citizenship and being part of a demos implies the “right of belonging to the state, is the political community of fate, to which individual citizens are bound” and continue to say “their solidarity with and their embeddedness in the fate of their home country, which they cannot escape, are also bear the consequences of their decisions. By contrast, foreigners, regardless of how long they may have resided in the territory of the state, can always return to their homeland.”[18] This argument can be debated under Rawls definition of liberal people’s characteristics, which includes the following conditions: “a reasonable just constitutional democratic government that serves their fundamental interests; citizens united by what Mill called “common sympathies”; and finally, a moral nature. The first constitutional, the second is cultural, and the third requires a firm attachment to a political (moral) conception of right and justice.”[19] People that are living in the German local areas meet the conditions that Rawls and Mill agreed on as a justification for a membership in their bounded community.  Although, the main concept that was in question is the right of membership of the land; the main government fear was that it creates additional citizenship rights for long-term residents at the municipal government level that can affect the political process within both of the upper provincial and federal government’s levels. The demos is not ethnos, many nationals are foreign born, which creates the unique new definition that long-term residents will be “cohabitants” or “co-citizens of foreign origin,”[20] which will in Brian Barry’s view, create exclusion that violates social solidarity and harms democracy within the society.

Conclusion

In modern times, globalization make citizens and newcomers share public goods and present in forms of landowners, corporations and other socioeconomic identities — that are affected directly through any electoral control that aims to protect the socioeconomic interests of the society. Disconnecting considerable segment of this society will harm the foundations of that society.  Benhabib questioned if “human rights assume secondary importance in influencing the will of democracies.” She challenges Rawlsian liberals in conflicting the ethnos and the demos and states that “we, the people” is a dynamic concept despite Rawls’s vision of “self-enclosed moral universes” which, in her view is “empirically and normatively flawed,” when it comes to peoples’ dual identity as “ethnos” and as “demos.” The other side of the conflict as I see it is that in Rawls “Justice as Fairness” the “original contract” in between citizens and excludes outsiders, while in Rawls “The Laws of Peoples” introduces justice across borders.[21] Although allocating human rights responsibilities was a view revealed within the debate about “Cosmopolitanism,”  many views including my own, agrees that “powerful states have extensive human rights obligations,” and a higher standards towards its citizens and towards the World. France and Germany are well-ordered peoples in a decent societies based on Rawls model that “a Society of Peoples is reasonably just in that its members follow the reasonably just Law of Peoples in their mutual relations”[22] in both Benhabib’s examples, I tend to take more of a “Cosmopolitanism” of human rights approach, expecting more moral responsibility from France and Germany towards their residents and immigrants societies. Inclusion, justice, and tolerance are the moral philosophical answers.

“If we have good grounds for ascribing certain rights to human beings indifferently, there is no reason why we should forfeit or modify our commitments to those rights merely because others do not share it”[23]Citizens constitute a diverse organized group that share a common language and have a desire to live together on an agreed social contract. In such society, “if culture is not generally respected, then the dignity and self-respect of its members will also be threatened.”[24] Diversity of belief and value is a normal part of human condition. Culture self-preservation requires certain collective rights that may limit freedom of individual members to discard or alter their traditional ways of life. However, it also should allow members freedom to the right to exit. In a Cosmopolitan world, people are free to choose ‘culture fragments’ and their self-identity should not be limited by their ethnic descent.

 

Bibliography

Benhabib, Seyla. Another Cosmopolitanism: Hospitality, Sovereignty, and Democratic Iterations (Berkeley Tanner Lectures 2004), Oxford University Press (2006)

Johns, Peter. Human Rights and Global Diversity,  Human Rights and Diverse Cultures: Continuity or Discontinuity Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. (2001) p.4

Kymlicka, Will, The Rights of Minority Cultures, Oxford (1995) p. 7

Le grand, Julian. Individual choice and social exclusion. Justice & democracy: essays for brian barry. Cambridge University Press (2004) P171

McGrew A. & Poku N. Globalization, development and human security. Polity press, Cambridge,2007

Pogge Thomas (Andrew kuper edited). Human Rights and Human Responsibilities. Global responsibilities: who must deliver on human rights. Routledge (2005) P18

Rawls, John. The Law of Peoples: The idea of public reason revised. Harvard University Press, London (1999)

Seljuq, Affan. Cultural Conflicts: North African Immigrants in France. The international Journal of Peace Studies, Volume 2, Number 2, July 1997

Tan, Kok-Chor. Justice without Borders: Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism, and Patriotism Cambridge University Press ( 2004)

 


[1] Aristotle. politics. London: Loeb Classic Librrary, Heinemann. 1926-65, 1. 12.

[2] Tan, Kok-Chor. Justice without Borders: Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism, and Patriotism Cambridge University Press ( 2004)

[3] Benhabib, Seyla. Another Cosmopolitanism: Hospitality, Sovereignty, and Democratic Iterations (Berkeley Tanner Lectures 2004), Oxford University Press (2006)

[4]Ibid

[5] McGrew A. & Poku N. Globalization, development and human security. Polity press, Cambridge,2007 p17

[6] Johns, Peter. Human Rights and Global Diversity,  Human Rights and Diverse Cultures: Continuity or Discontinuity Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. (2001) p.3

[7]Ibid  P29

[8] Ibid P14

[9] Seljuq, Affan. Cultural Conflicts: North African Immigrants in France. The international Journal of Peace Studies, Volume 2, Number 2, July 1997

[10] Ibid 52

[11] Ibid 56

[12] Ibid 61

[13] Rawls, John. The Law of Peoples: The idea of public reason revised. Harvard University Press, London (1999) P31

[14] P. 106

[15] Pogge Thomas. Human Rights and Human Responsibilities. Global responsibilities: who must deliver on human rights. Routledge (2005) P18

[16] Le grand, Julian. Individual Choice and Social Exclusion. Justice & democracy: essays for Brian Barry. Cambridge University Press (2004) P171

[17] Ibid P62

[18] Ibid P65

[19] Rawls, John. The Law of Peoples: The idea of public reason revised. Harvard University Press, London (1999) P25

[20] Ibid P66

[21] Rawls, John. The Law of Peoples: The idea of public reason revised. Harvard University Press, London (1999)

[22] Ibid P5

[23] Johns, Peter. Human Rights and Global Diversity,  Human Rights and Diverse Cultures: Continuity or Discontinuity Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. (2001) p.4

[24] Kymlicka, Will, The Rights of Minority Cultures, Oxford (1995) p. 7


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