TheoryCultureSociety201330Beck Ulrich, and Daniel Levy (2013) Cosmopolitan Nation: Re-imagining Collectivity in the World Risk Society. Theory, Culture & Society 30(3): 3-31.

The concept of the national is often perceived, both in public and academic discourse as the central obstacle for the realization of cosmopolitan orientations. Consequently, debates about the nation tend to revolve around its persistence or its demise. We depart from this either-or perspective by investigating the formation of the ‘cosmopolitan nation’ as a facet of world risk society. Modern collectivities are increasingly preoccupied with debating, preventing and managing risks. However, unlike earlier manifestations of risk characterized by daring actions or predictability models, global risks can no longer be calculated or forecast. Accordingly, more influence accrues to the perception of risk, largely constructed by media representations. Cosmopolitanized risk collectivities are engendered through the anticipation of endangered futures which are, for the most part, communicated through an increasingly global media scape. While global media events produce shared exposure, risk conceptions retain distinctive political-cultural features as their respective meanings are prefigured by path-dependent pasts. Nevertheless, the promulgation of risk societies, we argue, results in a reimagination of nationhood which takes place in the context of: global norms (e.g. human rights); globalized markets; transnational migrations; global generations and their embeddedness in civil society movements; and the local interpenetration of world religions to name but a few of the global backdrops shaping new associational intersections. We develop our argument in four interrelated steps. Contrary to essentialized notions of nationalism or universal versions of cosmopolitanism, we address the cosmopolitan reconfiguration of nationhood by differentiating between presumptions of thick belonging and the actual proliferation of cosmopolitan affiliations. In a second step we overcome the territorial fixation of the social sciences by shifting our attention to temporal dimensions, with a particular focus on competing conceptions of the future. In a third step we demonstrate how these cosmopolitan transformations of nationhood are taking place in the context of a world risk society regime that marshals a set of cosmopolitan imperatives situating the global other in our midst. In a fourth step we illustrate these developments by exploring how the mediatization of risk, and concomitant notions of the future, contribute to the reimagination of cosmopolitan risk collectivities.


Read more: Beck Ulrich, and Daniel Levy (2013) Cosmopolitan Nation: Re-imagining Collectivity in the World Risk SocietyTheory, Culture & Society 30(3): 3-31. (link opens in new window)


Research Fields

Methodological Cosmopolitanism

In the Laboratory of Climate Change

Ludwig-Maximillians-Universität München Institute für Soziologie European Research Council