Sunday, 23 November 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Interview on Cyprus Crisis: European Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Financial Capitalism

Saturday, 18 May 2013 00:00 By Michael A. Peters with Marianna Papastephanou, Truthout | Interview

A crowd waits for a branch of Cyprus Bank to open in Nicosia, Cyprus, March 28, 2013. Cypriots are having to work with — and around — strict new controls on the flow of money that international lenders have imposed to prevent a bank run in Cyprus. (Photo: Angelos Tzortzinis / The New York Times) A crowd waits for a branch of Cyprus Bank to open in Nicosia, Cyprus, March 28, 2013. Cypriots are having to work with — and around — strict new controls on the flow of money that international lenders have imposed to prevent a bank run in Cyprus. (Photo: Angelos Tzortzinis / The New York Times) This extended correspondence between two scholars is featured as part of Truthout's Public Intellectual Project.

Michael Peters: If you might permit me as a non-European, oriented and socialized through European ideals, it seems that Cyprus' current crisis is strongly related to a kind of neoliberal financial capitalism that is cosmopolitan, although not democratic. The orientation of Brussels has always been toward the pact for the euro that points the way to institutionalized fiscal austerity and the priority of debt repayment. These monetized aims also help promote the disestablishment of collective wage bargaining and cuts to public spending and pensions.

In other cases, such as the Spanish crisis, the EU austerity strategy seemed to be more bailouts for private banks with state guarantees to pay off debt to foreign creditors at the expense of its own resources. This is an ethico-political vision (but one that you and I abhor) in which financial interests have effected a kind of institutional capture to socialize private banking losses.

The interesting aspect to me is that the financial policy and interests driving the process are often implemented by bodies not directly elected by EU citizens or accountable to them. The growth pact, the pact for the euro, and the different memoranda of understanding seem to sacrifice fiscal sovereignty, and, therefore, also necessarily compromise the possibility of any democratic cosmopolitanism. It is unclear to me why an overextended Cypriot banking system, the partial result of deregulation, closely tied to Greek interests and seen to actively attract and harbor Russian capital at low tax levels, should prompt Eurocrats, International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials and local conservative government ministers to employ a crude burden-sharing levy that cuts across all deposit holders and against the historical and now-standard agreement to protect bank deposit funds up to a threshold of 100,000 euros. This is a recipe for social unrest with strong anti-EU sentiment entering into mainstream political discourse, accompanied by the desire for local economic autonomy. This is surely also able to be parsed in terms of cosmopolitan sentiments that have an ethico-political component - especially if these popular feelings end up punishing the relationship to the rest of Europe and cuddling up closer to Russia.

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The imposition on capital controls is against basic EU rules that allow for freedom of movement of capital. The wider consequences are hard to ignore: there are many countries that have banking systems where bank assets are higher than eight times the size of GDP (as for Cyprus) - Luxemburg, Ireland, Slovenia and Malta, for example. Is Cyprus a one-off case for the EU or the template for a consistent policy? Who should pay for bailouts? Taxpayers, investors, bondholders, depositors? President Nicos Anastasiades outlined a 12-point plan to rescue the troubled economy, including a Euro-Vegas gambling initiative allowing casinos to operate.

Perhaps the problem is that the cosmopolitan ideal has not been properly instituted, leaving the EU as a decentralized set of states with a range of conflicting national objectives? Is Merkel simply trying to satisfy German voters? The geopolitics surrounding the Cyprus banking crisis cannot be separated from financialization or the growth of finance capitalism worldwide - for the same banking practices of which the Cypriots are accused are much more well developed in Wall Street, the City of London and other European banking capitals; indeed, they are now standard practice, and as Vassilis K. Fouskas and Constantine Dimoulas suggest, the West "encouraged Cyprus to embrace its model of financialization, opening up to foreign capital and services." They go on to point out:

As usual, the weakest party is the first to be blamed: Cyprus has become a tax haven and an offshore paradise, washing Russian, Serbian and Arab money; its financial and banking sector is almost eight times its economic output; it created a real estate bubble and now suffers from non-serviceable mortgages and bad loans; it bought Greek debt, suffering massive losses when Greece's creditors imposed a "haircut" in 2011; and, last but not least, the Greek Cypriots failed to unite the island in 2004 in a referendum in which the Turkish Cypriots voted in favor and the Greek Cypriots against unity (those arguing this forget what the Annan plan was about: a neocolonial design guaranteeing NATO's interests against those of ordinary Cypriots and the refugees).

Nicos Trimikliniotis understands that the EU bullying decision has global implications that threaten integration, highlight the risks of tertiarization of the economy and triggered a new solidarity.

The Cyprus crisis is essentially a Eurozone crisis which threatens the very foundations of the European Union. This small island economy, only 0.2.% of the Eurozone, is proving to be 'systemic' at the political, social and economic level. The Cyprus crisis is a manifestation of a deep crisis of democracy and equality in EU institutions, which subordinates the democratic will of the people to finance interests. More significantly, it is threatening the European integration project itself as it is only the beginning of a process.

I hope I can draw you into this discussion around the wider implications of the banking crisis for Cyprus and the need for a critical account of finance capitalism as part of cosmopolitan studies.

Marianna Papastephanou: I am more reticent to grant neoliberalism the predicate "cosmopolitan" as I think that being "nondemocratic" is not its only ethico-political deficit and not the only distance it has to cover from a cosmopolitan ideal that deserves the name. The latter turn of phrase, i.e. "to deserve the name," invokes the reasons why I do not concede the description "cosmopolitan" to practices that, as you said, both of us abhor. I agree with you that just to abhor something is not good enough reason for divesting it of a predicate to which it lays claim. But my reasons why I consider neoliberal policy just globalist rather than cosmopolitan go well beyond subjective reactive responses to something that appears unattractive to the critic.My reasons are supra-individual in the sense that they concern a surplus of normativity and ethico-political signification that is inherent in the semantic content of cosmopolitanism. The conceptual history of cosmopolitanism problematizes pragmatic uses of it that reserve the term for anything simply globally mobile, globally powerful or globally mandatory.

I can explain my position with a little thought experiment that illustrates what I am trying to say when I claim that there is a surplus of normativity within cosmopolitanism that itself resists its being co-opted. I agree with you that a neoliberal handling may rely on a kind of ethico-political vision and it surely involves a kind of normativity. But this kind of normativity is not the one that can be associated with cosmopolitanism in general (at most it may reflect the Eurocentric "universalization" that tarnished cosmopolitan accounts in modernity; that is, it may lay claim to a narrow and historically specific conception of what counts as cosmopolitan).

Here is the thought experiment: imagine a slave trader of the previous centuries. He travels; he is rootless perhaps in terms of mobility or attachment to a specific land/community, and he encounters alterity in many forms. He may even listen to and (if musical enough) enjoy the sad songs the slaves sing on board, on the seaway to the new "life" he has in store for them. Perhaps he "hybridizes" himself a lot by this encounter. Maybe he is attracted by African art, and he is perceptive enough of the prospect for further profit this art presents if cleverly promoted in European "global" cities. And he surely speaks foreign languages; otherwise, he would not be able to carry out his transactions. Most probably, this slave trader also genuinely holds his actions to be consistent with an ethico-political ideal of a kind; we may imagine this to comprise a global vision of merry owners feeling protected and secure, prospering in a global context where everything falls into place - that is, where the superiors are served and revered by the inferiors in a master-slave relation free of any improbable dialectics.

I do not doubt that it is possible for such a slave trader to describe himself as an avatar of cosmopolitanism on grounds of his mobility, his knowledgeability of otherness and the global element of his "ethico-political" "vision." (Perhaps I should not even doubt that some pragmatic decisionmakers and global players may not be able to see the difference between the slave trader and rival, indeed, opposite, cosmopolitan exemplarities, and thus feel that we should grant the cosmopolitan adjective to the slave trader, too.)

But somehow, I believe that the exemplarity of the figure of this thought experiment as cosmopolitan is more than just appalling in your eyes and my eyes. I believe that it is untrue to a broader semantics of cosmopolitanism, to a cosmopolitanism that was coined by the cynic philosophers of Greek antiquity for whom monetary profit was the metropolis of evil and cosmopolis was an antipolis to it, where exchange would be based on dice! The slave trader would not be the ideal type of a Diogenes who defined himself as a cosmoupolitis, and responded to Alexander's offer of imperial favors by asking him to step aside so as not to block his sun, or of thinkers such as Alcidamas and Antiphon who already in ancient times claimed (respectively) against slavery and discrimination that "no one is a slave by nature" and there is "no Greek or barbarian." Beyond "authorial" or "authentic" voices of cosmopolitanism, at even higher supra-individual levels, there is something gruesome, deeply misleading and ultimately uncosmopolitan in conceding the adjective "cosmopolitan" to the slave trader, as much as we may agree that anyone is allowed to describe themselves as they wish without requiring our authorization for doing so.

What I am illustrating with this somewhat extreme thought experiment is that there is a specific normative sense of ethico-political cosmopolitanism that: resists usurpation by just anybody; raises limits to the elasticity usually attributed to the term (that stretches it so much as to be unqualifiedly granted to anything global); and offers grounds for theorizing the gap between empirical realities such as globalization and highly demanding (hence ever receding) ideals such as cosmopolitanism.

Having said all this, I must also add that I am aware of the much deeper theoretical stakes involved in a debate concerning the surplus of cosmopolitan ideality and the claim about supra-individual semantic barriers to protean elasticity. One may wonder to what extent conceptual essentialism may underpin such claims, or one may describe our difference on this issue as a difference in deep-laid paradigmatic philosophical assumptions: a co-speaker setting out from a Foucauldian perspective may be more prepared to accept diverse claims to cosmopolitan ideality as locatable in diverse contestations of power and political space. Indeed, from a Foucauldian perspective, my pushing critique of neoliberalism to the point of resisting their cosmopolitan self-description may appear too dependent on a strong notion of normativity (perhaps implicitly prescriptive or utopian), too lenient to, or optimist about, alternative "humanisms" and too close to epistemic realism (e.g. a speculative realism of Alain Badiou, Quentin Meillassoux, and their likes) against subjective correlationism.

Then again, a co-speaker coming from a different background may retort that avoidance of the confrontation at a conceptual level leaves the modern conception of cosmopolitanism as capital mobility and traveling untouched, and in this way reproduces modern understandings of the encounter with the "other." But I am also aware that this now goes to a level of abstraction (as it usually happens with such issues) that we may enjoy, but that, within an interview, may sidetrack our conversation, or it may make the reader feel that this is too technical a philosophical terrain. So, I move on to the other questions.

I agree with you that the Cyprus crisis reflects much wider implications for the island (especially given the geopolitical context) as well as for the EE. And your mention of the need for a critical account of finance capitalism becoming part of cosmopolitan studies adds a very important dimension to the more abstract (i.e. based on general principles) ideal of economic cosmopolitanism of just redistribution of wealth, material aid and the like. Besides, critical considerations of this sort are in any case conducive to the more general ideal of economic cosmopolitanism if its plea for global justice (or aid) at the economic level is to acquire substance and to avoid sounding gestural, becoming a mere psychic discharge or even smacking of ungrounded, chimeric, "less than fair gamble" utopianism.

And it is important to add that in your account of the neoliberal setting of the Cyprus crisis, you also give sound arguments for one to conclude that the challenge Europe confronts today does not boil down to lack of solidarity. Complaints about such a lack may constitute a transcendent (from the outset) critique of European policies - a critique that may reflect communitarian sensibilities. What your account implicitly points to is that European policies today also fail to meet democratic standards that have been the pretenses, so to speak, of liberalism as such. Thus, by exacerbating democratic deficits much against liberal ideality, such policies invite immanent (from the onset) criticisms; in other words, they are not true to their own aspirations, or at least their declared aspirations.

In your account, you include the "Greek voice" as registered in Fouskas and Dimoulas' and in Trimikliniotis' interventions, and I would like to say a little about how I read the quotations above.

The Trimikliniotis quotation frames the issue in terms that, to me, reflect "risk society" concerns of the kind that brings to mind Ulrich Beck's sociological cosmopolitanism (often promoted as an alternative to a more philosophical qua normative cosmopolitanism). It thus cosmopolitanizes (I'd say globalizes) the Cyprus crisis by emphasizing its possibly systemic and dispersed effects. It then comprises an interesting interpolation that breaks off the pragmatic framing of critique. The Cyprus crisis, says Trimikliniotis (and I agree), manifests a deep crisis of democracy and equality at the institutional level in Europe. Now the discursive level subtly changes as it becomes the normative one within which the fact that finance interests take precedence over popular democratic will is not just risky, but also ethically unacceptable. But I find the words that follow this interpolation extremely interesting: "more significantly, it is threatening the European integration project itself." Not only the "risk society" (pragmatic) rationale returns, but it even stands out as more significant than the normative rationale. I grant that as a discursive strategy, this framing of the critique of current Europe is more easily comprehensible and surely more effective than criticisms operating at the normative level. European and non-European public opinion (if I am allowed to perform such a generalization here) today seems far more prepared to consider a pragmatic fear (real or imagined) than an ideal-normative hope. Granting the above quotation a common idiom with Europe (and thus persuasiveness), I must say, however, that I still see great importance in giving space to another kind of critique, more complex, perhaps, and less appealing or accessible at first sight, but no less significant for that matter. Here it is:

Even if the Cyprus crisis does not eventually prove to be systemic, even if it turns out to be "harmless" - not threatening to European priorities - Cyprus (both in its "problem" dimension of illegal invasion and occupation by another country and in its newest "financial crisis" status) remains a litmus test of European and cosmopolitan ideality, a challenge (one among many other) for the world to ponder on its double standards, on its hypocrisies and complicities, on its ethico-political deficits and, at the same time, on its chances for a new start, for a shift in direction toward more normatively desirable responses. The quotation from Fouskas and Dimoulas points precisely to this coupling of Cyprus-in-crisis and Cyprus-as-problem: despite EE decisionmakers' pretenses, despite assertions that all there is to it is just application of law and order, the EE response to Cyprus in all the cosmopolitan challenges that it has so far presented is the typical realpolitik response that is reserved for the weaker parties; it is the response of the rational egoist (projected at a more collective level) who can live with inequalities, democratic deficits, injustices, etcetera so long as those remain "nonsystemic" or nonthreatening for stronger parties' interests or stability.

Michael Peters: Thanks for your response and the thought experiment. On neoliberal cosmopolitanism, I simply note that the term is in current usage. For example, Peter Gowan in New Left Review uses the term as the title for his paper:

Over the past decade a strong ideological current has gained prominence in the Anglo-American world, running parallel to the discourse of globalization and rhetorically complementing it. Indeed, in official parlance it is the more insistent of the two, and seems likely to become all the more clamorous in the aftermath of September 11th 2001. We may call it the new liberal cosmopolitanism, as distinct from the more democratic cosmopolitanism defended here by Daniele Archibugi. Its theorists are for the most part to be found in international relations departments of the Anglophone universities, though some have been seconded to offices of the UN Secretariat or NATO protectorate in Bosnia. Viewed historically, the new doctrine is a radicalization of the Anglo-American tradition that has conceived itself as upholding a liberal internationalism, based on visions of a single human race peacefully united by free trade and common legal norms, led by states featuring civic liberties and representative institutions. Such liberal internationalism sought to create a global order that could enforce a code of conduct on the external relations between states. But it still essentially accepted the Westphalian system that granted states jurisdiction over their own territories.

Gowan is not the only one to use the term in this way. David Harvey's 2009 book Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom provides a brief history of cosmopolitanism by analyzing four epochs of cosmopolitan theory: Kantian/liberal, postcolonial, neoliberal, and the new cosmopolitans. Nadia Urbinati (2003) uses the term in a similar way to refer to the branch based on the so-called free market:

Cosmopolitanism is a composite family of ancient lineage. Its liberal humanist branch is rooted in classical Stoicism and the modern doctrine of natural rights. Its neo-liberal branch has grown from the theory of the free market and the liberation of civil society from the fetters of feudalism and state absolutism. Thus cosmopolitanism can mean the aspiration for global justice and the universalization of human rights, as well as an uncritical celebration of globalization.... Their differences notwithstanding, both liberal and neo-liberal cosmopolitanism see national sovereignty as an obstacle because it resists outside interference and obstructs transnational exchange and/or cooperation. In their humanist, liberal, and economic versions, scholars of different disciplines, countries, and political orientation share remarkably similar cosmopolitan ideals.

As you know, this is the way I use the term to show there is a modern lineage for the term that embraces an ethico-political vision in the tradition of Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments and Scottish political economy that predates Kant's usage by a considerable time. In the paper I presented in Cyprus last year, I tried to argue a view that acknowledges an official lineage of the term by tracing the discourse of economic cosmopolitanism.

In my view, Gowan's description of neoliberal cosmopolitanism is both accurate and realistic. I differ from him in believing that it can be best captured theoretically by Foucault's notion of governmentality entertained in relation to neoliberalism on a world stage. "Neoliberal cosmopolitan governmentality" explains how American neoliberal "hegemony" is sustained in part through the expansion of liberal democracy and a set of world political institutions working through the "machinery" of human rights and neoliberal economic cosmopolitanism (for which it serves as a political legitimation) that works through the doctrine of free trade, the IMF and the World Trade Organization/WTO (Peters, 2012a).

Of course, I am not advocating the position of neoliberal cosmopolitanism, but I am trying to demonstrate that there is a competing line of thinking that has links with the older sources and predates the Kantian usage. In this situation, in my opinion, we are forced to accept the term even if we want to argue against it or want to show its shortcomings.

I have responded at length to the first part of your comment because it conditions my response to the second part. In passing, I have to say it is so good to be able to be to discuss the Cyprus situation with a Cypriot philosopher. I feel quite privileged. The first part of my comments informs the second part in that I think we have to ask what kind of cosmopolitanism is possible in the age of finance capitalism, in an age where, increasingly, all value is defined by financial markets that dwarf national economies and also carry huge lobbying pressure enabling buyouts of politics and new secure tax havens in a worldwide network.

The extent of tax haven networks are mind-boggling: one report suggests that the super-rich had something in the order of $21 trillion hidden away, an amount larger than the US and Japanese economies combined. We can get some indication of the significance of finance capitalism with some crude figures. Total gross world product in 2011 was about $70 trillion whereas total world derivative contracts outstanding currently totals about $700 trillion. We cannot begin to imagine the way in which geopolitics and the current reality is structured by derivatives. If there is a connection between capitalism and cosmopolitanism (liberal internationalism, neoliberal cosmopolitanism), then it is now important to realize that the game has changed dramatically and we face an era of currency wars when major economies compete against each other to devalue their own currency and lower the exchange rate through "quantitative easing" that cuts the price of exports and increases the price of imports.

Marianna Papastephanou: Yes, I see the connection between your response to the first part of my comment above and your question about cosmopolitanism in an era of finance capitalism, and this is why I will answer the question after I take the opportunity that this connection gives me further to clarify my position.

I do not doubt that the term "neoliberal cosmopolitanism" is in current usage. Precisely because it enjoys such social currency, I see value in couching some of our criticisms of it in a conceptual idiom. My conceptual objections to neoliberal self-descriptions as cosmopolitan do not dispute the resilience of the kind of modern internationalization/universalization that appropriated in a certain manner a term and an ideal that pre-dated not only Kant, but also Adam Smith. And surely my objections make common cause rather than opposing other forms of challenging neoliberal views. I think that they complement such challenges by showing that the conceptual history of cosmopolitanism goes much further back than early modernity and unveils a cosmopolitan ideality that is far more defensible at the normative level (as a desirable vision) and perhaps more attractive as an epistemic, ethical and affective enterprise of transforming the self and reality than neoliberal assumptions that all it takes for something/somebody to be cosmopolitan is mobility and globality.
Now, more specifically on the theorists you mentioned: if I were in Gowan's shoes, I would use the word "cosmopolitanism" (in the title of that essay) in quote marks, and I would explain the intricacies of using quote marks drawing on relevant textuality (e.g. Derrida's work amongst that of others). But then the essay would be reflecting my concerns rather than Gowan's. I fully appreciate differences in style, research standpoints and critical strategies. Harvey's 2009 book, as you said, analyses the four epochs of cosmopolitan theory: Kantian/liberal, postcolonial, neoliberal and the new cosmopolitans, for specific reasons. If we generalize his position beyond the purposes it serves in his book, we may end up in a rather uncosmopolitan way (and one may recall here the beginning of our conversation) to treat all that precedes modernity as pre-history.

Thus, I value very much the fact that the paper you presented at the Cyprus conference (2012a) communicated to impressive, innovative and convincing effect the idea that Smith's ethico-political vision of capital mobility pre-dated Kantian cosmopolitanism. You showed there (among other things) that the lineage of cosmopolitanism is more complex than it usually seems. Urbinati, again just as you said, acknowledges the ancient lineage - though I'd give a different account from hers of this lineage in ways that are not of concern here - and, as it is evident in the passage that you cite, she does not seem willing to question the widespread usage of cosmopolitanism to denote justice and rights discourse "as well as uncritical celebration of globalization." To me, to map and acknowledge the various usages of a term is one thing; to grant to all those usages an equal prerogative to claim the term is quite another. The latter option flies in the face of our intuitive resistances to, say, a Nazi's or a slave trader's (as in the thought experiment) hijacking of cosmopolitanism to describe themselves or their worldview. And it blocks tout court any theoretical possibility of forcing up such appropriations of cosmopolitanism against their own limits.

As should hardly need saying by now, my strategy of criticizing neoliberal claims to cosmopolitanism does not rely on any purist assumptions that the only cosmopolitan account that deserves the name might be the ancient Greek (or the Kantian). On the contrary, I believe that this strategy enlarges the scope of cosmopolitanism well beyond any European claims to authenticity (ancient or early modern) because it allows us to trace the conceptual history of cosmopolitanism also outside strictly European spatialities and modern temporalities (that did not stress or were not dependent upon radical mobility).

To give such an example: the early modern cosmopolitanism (even of the ethico-political utopian kind of the 16th century) is preceded by philosophical instances that problematize the direct lineage as we usually encounter it in current histories of cosmopolitanism. Such an instance is Al-Farabi's (also known as Avennason) cosmopolitanism. Al-Farabi is an important representative of medieval Moslem thought (c. 950 AD) in the Arab and Persian world. In his On the Principles of the Opinions of the Inhabitants of the Perfect State, he criticized various political systems in a Platonic manner and contrasted degenerate cities (I would say "dystopias") with the perfect city. But he departed from Plato in extending the vision of the localized city to a limitless human community. Avennason's text was an essay of political utopian cosmopolitanism that preceded modern western utopianism and cosmopolitanism by roughly five centuries.

Still, my interest in him is not only due to his exemplifying how current histories of cosmopolitanism can be problematized by a hybrid philosophy that challenges "authentications" of cosmopolitanism on grounds of lineage. What counts as cosmopolitan cannot just be a matter of one's self-description at a given time, but can be debated with regard to how it understands the "cosmos" and the "polis" components. I am equally interested in how instances of retrieving forgotten cosmopolitanisms help us perform and enact a kind of cosmopolitanism that searches for the surplus of ethico-political cosmopolitan vision that not only precedes early modernity, but has escaped it throughout the years, cannot be channeled within its uncritical fetishization of global mobility and hasty identification with cosmopolitanism, and is open to future re-formulations. All I am saying is that, in light of the above, I do not feel that free usage legitimates or indeed compels us to let various claims go unchallenged and concede semantic contents as supposedly tension-free.

These clarifications not only frame my answer to your question about "cosmopolitanism in an age of finance capitalism" but also make it easier for me to comment on the question as such before (or while also) answering it. It is a very important question that invites cosmopolitan thinking to be responsive to the world as it is or as it is being shaped. It grounds it; it "lands it" in a sense, by reminding theory that granting an ideal a height that seems unattainable risks its becoming inoperative, perhaps even disabling (as it blocks viewing more down-to-earth alternatives). And it propels it to respond to a rapidly changing reality and to engage with experience, its restrictions, potentialities and risks. The prepositional structure of the question, the "in an age of," makes cosmopolitanism answerable to this age and to what marks it as an age. But the responses deriving from such answerability vary relative to how we view finance capitalism. Such a response is, for instance, the Habermasian - as you discuss it in your article "Will Global Financialization and the Eurozone Debt Crisis Defeat European Cosmopolitan Democracy?" (Peters, 2012b) - and another is your own in many of your recent texts.

Another answer would derive from an absolutely gloomy depiction of finance capitalism. A wholesale indictment of it, a claim that its current distance from cosmopolitan ethico-political ideality proves that it is essentially anti-cosmopolitan would force me to give only one answer to your question: that to aspire to cosmopolitanism in an age of finance capitalism is, to paraphrase Che, to "be a realist and demand the impossible!" Such an answer is possible, but it is not the one I'd give, for my challenging neoliberal self-descriptions as cosmopolitan does not entail any such absolute incrimination; to paraphrase Alain Badiou's saying about the sophist (1999, p. 134), my plea is not in favor of mindsets that seek to annihilate the "manager," the "global burgher," the "Eurocrat," but rather in favor of mindsets that assign each to his proper place. Finance capitalist and managerial forces do exist in our era and are perhaps required, again to paraphrase Badiou's words about the philosopher's relation to sophists, even if only for cosmopolitanism "to maintain its ethics" (ibid). But, alongside a cosmopolitanism that is answerable to our world of today, responsive to it, connected to it through a prepositional structure, "in an age of," whose realist force and accuracy does not make it less asphyxiating, I see the need for a cosmopolitanism that finds itself in a different relation to the world. The question relevant to it may concern "cosmopolitanism and an age of finance capitalism where the "and" conjunction puts cosmopolitanism side by side (rather than in subjunctive relation) with realities that cosmopolitanism has to take into account while demanding from the world to consider the now unfathomable distance that separates it from a cosmopolitanism that deserves the name.

In thus re-phrasing the question, I may answer by paraphrasing what Theodor Adorno (1997, p. 9) says about the artist of the highest rank and adapting it to a modest defense of ethico-political cosmopolitanism: to relate to a world as it is, cosmopolitan philosophy should combine "the sharpest sense of reality" (cosmopolitanism in an age of finance capitalism) "with estrangement from reality" (cosmopolitanism as out-of-this world and the age of finance capitalism).

Michael Peters: Marianna, thanks for this full response and your willingness to respond to my questions. This has been a great experience for me and I have enjoyed the conversation. Your thinking is robust and clear and your willingness to participate is exemplary. These are tough times for Cyprus and for Cypriots: it is also the time for philosophy and for cosmopolitan philosophers like yourself.

References

Adorno, T. (1997). Aesthetic Theory. London: Athlone Press.
Badiou, A. (1999). Manifesto for Philosophy. Trans. Norman Madarasz. Albany: State University of N. York Press.
Gowan, Peter (2001) "Neoliberal Cosmopolitanism", New Left Review, 11.
Harvey, David (2009) Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom. New York, Columbia University Press.
Peters, M. A. (2012a) "Problematizing Liberal Cosmopolitanisms: Foucault and Neoliberal Cosmopolitan Governmentality." Paper presented at "The World and the Teacher - Prospects and Challenges for Teacher Education in an Age of Cosmopolitanization," An International Workshop at 13th International Conference of ISSEI (International Society for the Study of European Ideas) in cooperation with University of Cyprus, at the University of Cyprus in Nicosia, 2-6 July 2012.
Peters, M. A. (2012b) "Will Global Financialization and the Eurozone Debt Crisis Defeat European Cosmopolitan Democracy?"
Urbinati, Nadia (2003) "Can Cosmopolitical Democracy Be Democratic?" Political Theory Daily Review.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Michael A. Peters with Marianna Papastephanou

Michael A. Peters is professor of education at the University of Waikato in New Zealand and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His most recent books include: Obama and the End of the American Dream (2012), Interculturalism, Education and Dialogue (2012) (with Tina Besley) and Educational Philosophy and Politics (2012). Marianna Papastephanou is a Cypriot philosopher and assistant professor at the University of Cyprus.


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Interview on Cyprus Crisis: European Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Financial Capitalism

Saturday, 18 May 2013 00:00 By Michael A. Peters with Marianna Papastephanou, Truthout | Interview

A crowd waits for a branch of Cyprus Bank to open in Nicosia, Cyprus, March 28, 2013. Cypriots are having to work with — and around — strict new controls on the flow of money that international lenders have imposed to prevent a bank run in Cyprus. (Photo: Angelos Tzortzinis / The New York Times) A crowd waits for a branch of Cyprus Bank to open in Nicosia, Cyprus, March 28, 2013. Cypriots are having to work with — and around — strict new controls on the flow of money that international lenders have imposed to prevent a bank run in Cyprus. (Photo: Angelos Tzortzinis / The New York Times) This extended correspondence between two scholars is featured as part of Truthout's Public Intellectual Project.

Michael Peters: If you might permit me as a non-European, oriented and socialized through European ideals, it seems that Cyprus' current crisis is strongly related to a kind of neoliberal financial capitalism that is cosmopolitan, although not democratic. The orientation of Brussels has always been toward the pact for the euro that points the way to institutionalized fiscal austerity and the priority of debt repayment. These monetized aims also help promote the disestablishment of collective wage bargaining and cuts to public spending and pensions.

In other cases, such as the Spanish crisis, the EU austerity strategy seemed to be more bailouts for private banks with state guarantees to pay off debt to foreign creditors at the expense of its own resources. This is an ethico-political vision (but one that you and I abhor) in which financial interests have effected a kind of institutional capture to socialize private banking losses.

The interesting aspect to me is that the financial policy and interests driving the process are often implemented by bodies not directly elected by EU citizens or accountable to them. The growth pact, the pact for the euro, and the different memoranda of understanding seem to sacrifice fiscal sovereignty, and, therefore, also necessarily compromise the possibility of any democratic cosmopolitanism. It is unclear to me why an overextended Cypriot banking system, the partial result of deregulation, closely tied to Greek interests and seen to actively attract and harbor Russian capital at low tax levels, should prompt Eurocrats, International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials and local conservative government ministers to employ a crude burden-sharing levy that cuts across all deposit holders and against the historical and now-standard agreement to protect bank deposit funds up to a threshold of 100,000 euros. This is a recipe for social unrest with strong anti-EU sentiment entering into mainstream political discourse, accompanied by the desire for local economic autonomy. This is surely also able to be parsed in terms of cosmopolitan sentiments that have an ethico-political component - especially if these popular feelings end up punishing the relationship to the rest of Europe and cuddling up closer to Russia.

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The imposition on capital controls is against basic EU rules that allow for freedom of movement of capital. The wider consequences are hard to ignore: there are many countries that have banking systems where bank assets are higher than eight times the size of GDP (as for Cyprus) - Luxemburg, Ireland, Slovenia and Malta, for example. Is Cyprus a one-off case for the EU or the template for a consistent policy? Who should pay for bailouts? Taxpayers, investors, bondholders, depositors? President Nicos Anastasiades outlined a 12-point plan to rescue the troubled economy, including a Euro-Vegas gambling initiative allowing casinos to operate.

Perhaps the problem is that the cosmopolitan ideal has not been properly instituted, leaving the EU as a decentralized set of states with a range of conflicting national objectives? Is Merkel simply trying to satisfy German voters? The geopolitics surrounding the Cyprus banking crisis cannot be separated from financialization or the growth of finance capitalism worldwide - for the same banking practices of which the Cypriots are accused are much more well developed in Wall Street, the City of London and other European banking capitals; indeed, they are now standard practice, and as Vassilis K. Fouskas and Constantine Dimoulas suggest, the West "encouraged Cyprus to embrace its model of financialization, opening up to foreign capital and services." They go on to point out:

As usual, the weakest party is the first to be blamed: Cyprus has become a tax haven and an offshore paradise, washing Russian, Serbian and Arab money; its financial and banking sector is almost eight times its economic output; it created a real estate bubble and now suffers from non-serviceable mortgages and bad loans; it bought Greek debt, suffering massive losses when Greece's creditors imposed a "haircut" in 2011; and, last but not least, the Greek Cypriots failed to unite the island in 2004 in a referendum in which the Turkish Cypriots voted in favor and the Greek Cypriots against unity (those arguing this forget what the Annan plan was about: a neocolonial design guaranteeing NATO's interests against those of ordinary Cypriots and the refugees).

Nicos Trimikliniotis understands that the EU bullying decision has global implications that threaten integration, highlight the risks of tertiarization of the economy and triggered a new solidarity.

The Cyprus crisis is essentially a Eurozone crisis which threatens the very foundations of the European Union. This small island economy, only 0.2.% of the Eurozone, is proving to be 'systemic' at the political, social and economic level. The Cyprus crisis is a manifestation of a deep crisis of democracy and equality in EU institutions, which subordinates the democratic will of the people to finance interests. More significantly, it is threatening the European integration project itself as it is only the beginning of a process.

I hope I can draw you into this discussion around the wider implications of the banking crisis for Cyprus and the need for a critical account of finance capitalism as part of cosmopolitan studies.

Marianna Papastephanou: I am more reticent to grant neoliberalism the predicate "cosmopolitan" as I think that being "nondemocratic" is not its only ethico-political deficit and not the only distance it has to cover from a cosmopolitan ideal that deserves the name. The latter turn of phrase, i.e. "to deserve the name," invokes the reasons why I do not concede the description "cosmopolitan" to practices that, as you said, both of us abhor. I agree with you that just to abhor something is not good enough reason for divesting it of a predicate to which it lays claim. But my reasons why I consider neoliberal policy just globalist rather than cosmopolitan go well beyond subjective reactive responses to something that appears unattractive to the critic.My reasons are supra-individual in the sense that they concern a surplus of normativity and ethico-political signification that is inherent in the semantic content of cosmopolitanism. The conceptual history of cosmopolitanism problematizes pragmatic uses of it that reserve the term for anything simply globally mobile, globally powerful or globally mandatory.

I can explain my position with a little thought experiment that illustrates what I am trying to say when I claim that there is a surplus of normativity within cosmopolitanism that itself resists its being co-opted. I agree with you that a neoliberal handling may rely on a kind of ethico-political vision and it surely involves a kind of normativity. But this kind of normativity is not the one that can be associated with cosmopolitanism in general (at most it may reflect the Eurocentric "universalization" that tarnished cosmopolitan accounts in modernity; that is, it may lay claim to a narrow and historically specific conception of what counts as cosmopolitan).

Here is the thought experiment: imagine a slave trader of the previous centuries. He travels; he is rootless perhaps in terms of mobility or attachment to a specific land/community, and he encounters alterity in many forms. He may even listen to and (if musical enough) enjoy the sad songs the slaves sing on board, on the seaway to the new "life" he has in store for them. Perhaps he "hybridizes" himself a lot by this encounter. Maybe he is attracted by African art, and he is perceptive enough of the prospect for further profit this art presents if cleverly promoted in European "global" cities. And he surely speaks foreign languages; otherwise, he would not be able to carry out his transactions. Most probably, this slave trader also genuinely holds his actions to be consistent with an ethico-political ideal of a kind; we may imagine this to comprise a global vision of merry owners feeling protected and secure, prospering in a global context where everything falls into place - that is, where the superiors are served and revered by the inferiors in a master-slave relation free of any improbable dialectics.

I do not doubt that it is possible for such a slave trader to describe himself as an avatar of cosmopolitanism on grounds of his mobility, his knowledgeability of otherness and the global element of his "ethico-political" "vision." (Perhaps I should not even doubt that some pragmatic decisionmakers and global players may not be able to see the difference between the slave trader and rival, indeed, opposite, cosmopolitan exemplarities, and thus feel that we should grant the cosmopolitan adjective to the slave trader, too.)

But somehow, I believe that the exemplarity of the figure of this thought experiment as cosmopolitan is more than just appalling in your eyes and my eyes. I believe that it is untrue to a broader semantics of cosmopolitanism, to a cosmopolitanism that was coined by the cynic philosophers of Greek antiquity for whom monetary profit was the metropolis of evil and cosmopolis was an antipolis to it, where exchange would be based on dice! The slave trader would not be the ideal type of a Diogenes who defined himself as a cosmoupolitis, and responded to Alexander's offer of imperial favors by asking him to step aside so as not to block his sun, or of thinkers such as Alcidamas and Antiphon who already in ancient times claimed (respectively) against slavery and discrimination that "no one is a slave by nature" and there is "no Greek or barbarian." Beyond "authorial" or "authentic" voices of cosmopolitanism, at even higher supra-individual levels, there is something gruesome, deeply misleading and ultimately uncosmopolitan in conceding the adjective "cosmopolitan" to the slave trader, as much as we may agree that anyone is allowed to describe themselves as they wish without requiring our authorization for doing so.

What I am illustrating with this somewhat extreme thought experiment is that there is a specific normative sense of ethico-political cosmopolitanism that: resists usurpation by just anybody; raises limits to the elasticity usually attributed to the term (that stretches it so much as to be unqualifiedly granted to anything global); and offers grounds for theorizing the gap between empirical realities such as globalization and highly demanding (hence ever receding) ideals such as cosmopolitanism.

Having said all this, I must also add that I am aware of the much deeper theoretical stakes involved in a debate concerning the surplus of cosmopolitan ideality and the claim about supra-individual semantic barriers to protean elasticity. One may wonder to what extent conceptual essentialism may underpin such claims, or one may describe our difference on this issue as a difference in deep-laid paradigmatic philosophical assumptions: a co-speaker setting out from a Foucauldian perspective may be more prepared to accept diverse claims to cosmopolitan ideality as locatable in diverse contestations of power and political space. Indeed, from a Foucauldian perspective, my pushing critique of neoliberalism to the point of resisting their cosmopolitan self-description may appear too dependent on a strong notion of normativity (perhaps implicitly prescriptive or utopian), too lenient to, or optimist about, alternative "humanisms" and too close to epistemic realism (e.g. a speculative realism of Alain Badiou, Quentin Meillassoux, and their likes) against subjective correlationism.

Then again, a co-speaker coming from a different background may retort that avoidance of the confrontation at a conceptual level leaves the modern conception of cosmopolitanism as capital mobility and traveling untouched, and in this way reproduces modern understandings of the encounter with the "other." But I am also aware that this now goes to a level of abstraction (as it usually happens with such issues) that we may enjoy, but that, within an interview, may sidetrack our conversation, or it may make the reader feel that this is too technical a philosophical terrain. So, I move on to the other questions.

I agree with you that the Cyprus crisis reflects much wider implications for the island (especially given the geopolitical context) as well as for the EE. And your mention of the need for a critical account of finance capitalism becoming part of cosmopolitan studies adds a very important dimension to the more abstract (i.e. based on general principles) ideal of economic cosmopolitanism of just redistribution of wealth, material aid and the like. Besides, critical considerations of this sort are in any case conducive to the more general ideal of economic cosmopolitanism if its plea for global justice (or aid) at the economic level is to acquire substance and to avoid sounding gestural, becoming a mere psychic discharge or even smacking of ungrounded, chimeric, "less than fair gamble" utopianism.

And it is important to add that in your account of the neoliberal setting of the Cyprus crisis, you also give sound arguments for one to conclude that the challenge Europe confronts today does not boil down to lack of solidarity. Complaints about such a lack may constitute a transcendent (from the outset) critique of European policies - a critique that may reflect communitarian sensibilities. What your account implicitly points to is that European policies today also fail to meet democratic standards that have been the pretenses, so to speak, of liberalism as such. Thus, by exacerbating democratic deficits much against liberal ideality, such policies invite immanent (from the onset) criticisms; in other words, they are not true to their own aspirations, or at least their declared aspirations.

In your account, you include the "Greek voice" as registered in Fouskas and Dimoulas' and in Trimikliniotis' interventions, and I would like to say a little about how I read the quotations above.

The Trimikliniotis quotation frames the issue in terms that, to me, reflect "risk society" concerns of the kind that brings to mind Ulrich Beck's sociological cosmopolitanism (often promoted as an alternative to a more philosophical qua normative cosmopolitanism). It thus cosmopolitanizes (I'd say globalizes) the Cyprus crisis by emphasizing its possibly systemic and dispersed effects. It then comprises an interesting interpolation that breaks off the pragmatic framing of critique. The Cyprus crisis, says Trimikliniotis (and I agree), manifests a deep crisis of democracy and equality at the institutional level in Europe. Now the discursive level subtly changes as it becomes the normative one within which the fact that finance interests take precedence over popular democratic will is not just risky, but also ethically unacceptable. But I find the words that follow this interpolation extremely interesting: "more significantly, it is threatening the European integration project itself." Not only the "risk society" (pragmatic) rationale returns, but it even stands out as more significant than the normative rationale. I grant that as a discursive strategy, this framing of the critique of current Europe is more easily comprehensible and surely more effective than criticisms operating at the normative level. European and non-European public opinion (if I am allowed to perform such a generalization here) today seems far more prepared to consider a pragmatic fear (real or imagined) than an ideal-normative hope. Granting the above quotation a common idiom with Europe (and thus persuasiveness), I must say, however, that I still see great importance in giving space to another kind of critique, more complex, perhaps, and less appealing or accessible at first sight, but no less significant for that matter. Here it is:

Even if the Cyprus crisis does not eventually prove to be systemic, even if it turns out to be "harmless" - not threatening to European priorities - Cyprus (both in its "problem" dimension of illegal invasion and occupation by another country and in its newest "financial crisis" status) remains a litmus test of European and cosmopolitan ideality, a challenge (one among many other) for the world to ponder on its double standards, on its hypocrisies and complicities, on its ethico-political deficits and, at the same time, on its chances for a new start, for a shift in direction toward more normatively desirable responses. The quotation from Fouskas and Dimoulas points precisely to this coupling of Cyprus-in-crisis and Cyprus-as-problem: despite EE decisionmakers' pretenses, despite assertions that all there is to it is just application of law and order, the EE response to Cyprus in all the cosmopolitan challenges that it has so far presented is the typical realpolitik response that is reserved for the weaker parties; it is the response of the rational egoist (projected at a more collective level) who can live with inequalities, democratic deficits, injustices, etcetera so long as those remain "nonsystemic" or nonthreatening for stronger parties' interests or stability.

Michael Peters: Thanks for your response and the thought experiment. On neoliberal cosmopolitanism, I simply note that the term is in current usage. For example, Peter Gowan in New Left Review uses the term as the title for his paper:

Over the past decade a strong ideological current has gained prominence in the Anglo-American world, running parallel to the discourse of globalization and rhetorically complementing it. Indeed, in official parlance it is the more insistent of the two, and seems likely to become all the more clamorous in the aftermath of September 11th 2001. We may call it the new liberal cosmopolitanism, as distinct from the more democratic cosmopolitanism defended here by Daniele Archibugi. Its theorists are for the most part to be found in international relations departments of the Anglophone universities, though some have been seconded to offices of the UN Secretariat or NATO protectorate in Bosnia. Viewed historically, the new doctrine is a radicalization of the Anglo-American tradition that has conceived itself as upholding a liberal internationalism, based on visions of a single human race peacefully united by free trade and common legal norms, led by states featuring civic liberties and representative institutions. Such liberal internationalism sought to create a global order that could enforce a code of conduct on the external relations between states. But it still essentially accepted the Westphalian system that granted states jurisdiction over their own territories.

Gowan is not the only one to use the term in this way. David Harvey's 2009 book Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom provides a brief history of cosmopolitanism by analyzing four epochs of cosmopolitan theory: Kantian/liberal, postcolonial, neoliberal, and the new cosmopolitans. Nadia Urbinati (2003) uses the term in a similar way to refer to the branch based on the so-called free market:

Cosmopolitanism is a composite family of ancient lineage. Its liberal humanist branch is rooted in classical Stoicism and the modern doctrine of natural rights. Its neo-liberal branch has grown from the theory of the free market and the liberation of civil society from the fetters of feudalism and state absolutism. Thus cosmopolitanism can mean the aspiration for global justice and the universalization of human rights, as well as an uncritical celebration of globalization.... Their differences notwithstanding, both liberal and neo-liberal cosmopolitanism see national sovereignty as an obstacle because it resists outside interference and obstructs transnational exchange and/or cooperation. In their humanist, liberal, and economic versions, scholars of different disciplines, countries, and political orientation share remarkably similar cosmopolitan ideals.

As you know, this is the way I use the term to show there is a modern lineage for the term that embraces an ethico-political vision in the tradition of Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments and Scottish political economy that predates Kant's usage by a considerable time. In the paper I presented in Cyprus last year, I tried to argue a view that acknowledges an official lineage of the term by tracing the discourse of economic cosmopolitanism.

In my view, Gowan's description of neoliberal cosmopolitanism is both accurate and realistic. I differ from him in believing that it can be best captured theoretically by Foucault's notion of governmentality entertained in relation to neoliberalism on a world stage. "Neoliberal cosmopolitan governmentality" explains how American neoliberal "hegemony" is sustained in part through the expansion of liberal democracy and a set of world political institutions working through the "machinery" of human rights and neoliberal economic cosmopolitanism (for which it serves as a political legitimation) that works through the doctrine of free trade, the IMF and the World Trade Organization/WTO (Peters, 2012a).

Of course, I am not advocating the position of neoliberal cosmopolitanism, but I am trying to demonstrate that there is a competing line of thinking that has links with the older sources and predates the Kantian usage. In this situation, in my opinion, we are forced to accept the term even if we want to argue against it or want to show its shortcomings.

I have responded at length to the first part of your comment because it conditions my response to the second part. In passing, I have to say it is so good to be able to be to discuss the Cyprus situation with a Cypriot philosopher. I feel quite privileged. The first part of my comments informs the second part in that I think we have to ask what kind of cosmopolitanism is possible in the age of finance capitalism, in an age where, increasingly, all value is defined by financial markets that dwarf national economies and also carry huge lobbying pressure enabling buyouts of politics and new secure tax havens in a worldwide network.

The extent of tax haven networks are mind-boggling: one report suggests that the super-rich had something in the order of $21 trillion hidden away, an amount larger than the US and Japanese economies combined. We can get some indication of the significance of finance capitalism with some crude figures. Total gross world product in 2011 was about $70 trillion whereas total world derivative contracts outstanding currently totals about $700 trillion. We cannot begin to imagine the way in which geopolitics and the current reality is structured by derivatives. If there is a connection between capitalism and cosmopolitanism (liberal internationalism, neoliberal cosmopolitanism), then it is now important to realize that the game has changed dramatically and we face an era of currency wars when major economies compete against each other to devalue their own currency and lower the exchange rate through "quantitative easing" that cuts the price of exports and increases the price of imports.

Marianna Papastephanou: Yes, I see the connection between your response to the first part of my comment above and your question about cosmopolitanism in an era of finance capitalism, and this is why I will answer the question after I take the opportunity that this connection gives me further to clarify my position.

I do not doubt that the term "neoliberal cosmopolitanism" is in current usage. Precisely because it enjoys such social currency, I see value in couching some of our criticisms of it in a conceptual idiom. My conceptual objections to neoliberal self-descriptions as cosmopolitan do not dispute the resilience of the kind of modern internationalization/universalization that appropriated in a certain manner a term and an ideal that pre-dated not only Kant, but also Adam Smith. And surely my objections make common cause rather than opposing other forms of challenging neoliberal views. I think that they complement such challenges by showing that the conceptual history of cosmopolitanism goes much further back than early modernity and unveils a cosmopolitan ideality that is far more defensible at the normative level (as a desirable vision) and perhaps more attractive as an epistemic, ethical and affective enterprise of transforming the self and reality than neoliberal assumptions that all it takes for something/somebody to be cosmopolitan is mobility and globality.
Now, more specifically on the theorists you mentioned: if I were in Gowan's shoes, I would use the word "cosmopolitanism" (in the title of that essay) in quote marks, and I would explain the intricacies of using quote marks drawing on relevant textuality (e.g. Derrida's work amongst that of others). But then the essay would be reflecting my concerns rather than Gowan's. I fully appreciate differences in style, research standpoints and critical strategies. Harvey's 2009 book, as you said, analyses the four epochs of cosmopolitan theory: Kantian/liberal, postcolonial, neoliberal and the new cosmopolitans, for specific reasons. If we generalize his position beyond the purposes it serves in his book, we may end up in a rather uncosmopolitan way (and one may recall here the beginning of our conversation) to treat all that precedes modernity as pre-history.

Thus, I value very much the fact that the paper you presented at the Cyprus conference (2012a) communicated to impressive, innovative and convincing effect the idea that Smith's ethico-political vision of capital mobility pre-dated Kantian cosmopolitanism. You showed there (among other things) that the lineage of cosmopolitanism is more complex than it usually seems. Urbinati, again just as you said, acknowledges the ancient lineage - though I'd give a different account from hers of this lineage in ways that are not of concern here - and, as it is evident in the passage that you cite, she does not seem willing to question the widespread usage of cosmopolitanism to denote justice and rights discourse "as well as uncritical celebration of globalization." To me, to map and acknowledge the various usages of a term is one thing; to grant to all those usages an equal prerogative to claim the term is quite another. The latter option flies in the face of our intuitive resistances to, say, a Nazi's or a slave trader's (as in the thought experiment) hijacking of cosmopolitanism to describe themselves or their worldview. And it blocks tout court any theoretical possibility of forcing up such appropriations of cosmopolitanism against their own limits.

As should hardly need saying by now, my strategy of criticizing neoliberal claims to cosmopolitanism does not rely on any purist assumptions that the only cosmopolitan account that deserves the name might be the ancient Greek (or the Kantian). On the contrary, I believe that this strategy enlarges the scope of cosmopolitanism well beyond any European claims to authenticity (ancient or early modern) because it allows us to trace the conceptual history of cosmopolitanism also outside strictly European spatialities and modern temporalities (that did not stress or were not dependent upon radical mobility).

To give such an example: the early modern cosmopolitanism (even of the ethico-political utopian kind of the 16th century) is preceded by philosophical instances that problematize the direct lineage as we usually encounter it in current histories of cosmopolitanism. Such an instance is Al-Farabi's (also known as Avennason) cosmopolitanism. Al-Farabi is an important representative of medieval Moslem thought (c. 950 AD) in the Arab and Persian world. In his On the Principles of the Opinions of the Inhabitants of the Perfect State, he criticized various political systems in a Platonic manner and contrasted degenerate cities (I would say "dystopias") with the perfect city. But he departed from Plato in extending the vision of the localized city to a limitless human community. Avennason's text was an essay of political utopian cosmopolitanism that preceded modern western utopianism and cosmopolitanism by roughly five centuries.

Still, my interest in him is not only due to his exemplifying how current histories of cosmopolitanism can be problematized by a hybrid philosophy that challenges "authentications" of cosmopolitanism on grounds of lineage. What counts as cosmopolitan cannot just be a matter of one's self-description at a given time, but can be debated with regard to how it understands the "cosmos" and the "polis" components. I am equally interested in how instances of retrieving forgotten cosmopolitanisms help us perform and enact a kind of cosmopolitanism that searches for the surplus of ethico-political cosmopolitan vision that not only precedes early modernity, but has escaped it throughout the years, cannot be channeled within its uncritical fetishization of global mobility and hasty identification with cosmopolitanism, and is open to future re-formulations. All I am saying is that, in light of the above, I do not feel that free usage legitimates or indeed compels us to let various claims go unchallenged and concede semantic contents as supposedly tension-free.

These clarifications not only frame my answer to your question about "cosmopolitanism in an age of finance capitalism" but also make it easier for me to comment on the question as such before (or while also) answering it. It is a very important question that invites cosmopolitan thinking to be responsive to the world as it is or as it is being shaped. It grounds it; it "lands it" in a sense, by reminding theory that granting an ideal a height that seems unattainable risks its becoming inoperative, perhaps even disabling (as it blocks viewing more down-to-earth alternatives). And it propels it to respond to a rapidly changing reality and to engage with experience, its restrictions, potentialities and risks. The prepositional structure of the question, the "in an age of," makes cosmopolitanism answerable to this age and to what marks it as an age. But the responses deriving from such answerability vary relative to how we view finance capitalism. Such a response is, for instance, the Habermasian - as you discuss it in your article "Will Global Financialization and the Eurozone Debt Crisis Defeat European Cosmopolitan Democracy?" (Peters, 2012b) - and another is your own in many of your recent texts.

Another answer would derive from an absolutely gloomy depiction of finance capitalism. A wholesale indictment of it, a claim that its current distance from cosmopolitan ethico-political ideality proves that it is essentially anti-cosmopolitan would force me to give only one answer to your question: that to aspire to cosmopolitanism in an age of finance capitalism is, to paraphrase Che, to "be a realist and demand the impossible!" Such an answer is possible, but it is not the one I'd give, for my challenging neoliberal self-descriptions as cosmopolitan does not entail any such absolute incrimination; to paraphrase Alain Badiou's saying about the sophist (1999, p. 134), my plea is not in favor of mindsets that seek to annihilate the "manager," the "global burgher," the "Eurocrat," but rather in favor of mindsets that assign each to his proper place. Finance capitalist and managerial forces do exist in our era and are perhaps required, again to paraphrase Badiou's words about the philosopher's relation to sophists, even if only for cosmopolitanism "to maintain its ethics" (ibid). But, alongside a cosmopolitanism that is answerable to our world of today, responsive to it, connected to it through a prepositional structure, "in an age of," whose realist force and accuracy does not make it less asphyxiating, I see the need for a cosmopolitanism that finds itself in a different relation to the world. The question relevant to it may concern "cosmopolitanism and an age of finance capitalism where the "and" conjunction puts cosmopolitanism side by side (rather than in subjunctive relation) with realities that cosmopolitanism has to take into account while demanding from the world to consider the now unfathomable distance that separates it from a cosmopolitanism that deserves the name.

In thus re-phrasing the question, I may answer by paraphrasing what Theodor Adorno (1997, p. 9) says about the artist of the highest rank and adapting it to a modest defense of ethico-political cosmopolitanism: to relate to a world as it is, cosmopolitan philosophy should combine "the sharpest sense of reality" (cosmopolitanism in an age of finance capitalism) "with estrangement from reality" (cosmopolitanism as out-of-this world and the age of finance capitalism).

Michael Peters: Marianna, thanks for this full response and your willingness to respond to my questions. This has been a great experience for me and I have enjoyed the conversation. Your thinking is robust and clear and your willingness to participate is exemplary. These are tough times for Cyprus and for Cypriots: it is also the time for philosophy and for cosmopolitan philosophers like yourself.

References

Adorno, T. (1997). Aesthetic Theory. London: Athlone Press.
Badiou, A. (1999). Manifesto for Philosophy. Trans. Norman Madarasz. Albany: State University of N. York Press.
Gowan, Peter (2001) "Neoliberal Cosmopolitanism", New Left Review, 11.
Harvey, David (2009) Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom. New York, Columbia University Press.
Peters, M. A. (2012a) "Problematizing Liberal Cosmopolitanisms: Foucault and Neoliberal Cosmopolitan Governmentality." Paper presented at "The World and the Teacher - Prospects and Challenges for Teacher Education in an Age of Cosmopolitanization," An International Workshop at 13th International Conference of ISSEI (International Society for the Study of European Ideas) in cooperation with University of Cyprus, at the University of Cyprus in Nicosia, 2-6 July 2012.
Peters, M. A. (2012b) "Will Global Financialization and the Eurozone Debt Crisis Defeat European Cosmopolitan Democracy?"
Urbinati, Nadia (2003) "Can Cosmopolitical Democracy Be Democratic?" Political Theory Daily Review.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Michael A. Peters with Marianna Papastephanou

Michael A. Peters is professor of education at the University of Waikato in New Zealand and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His most recent books include: Obama and the End of the American Dream (2012), Interculturalism, Education and Dialogue (2012) (with Tina Besley) and Educational Philosophy and Politics (2012). Marianna Papastephanou is a Cypriot philosopher and assistant professor at the University of Cyprus.


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