Locating Cosmopolitanism: Between Humanist Ideal and Grounded Social Category

Zlatko Skrbis, Gavin Kendall, Ian Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

230 Citations (Scopus)


The emerging interdisciplinary body of cosmopolitanism research has established a promising field of theoretical endeavour by bringing into focus questions concerning globalization, nationalism, population movements, cultural values and identity. Yet, despite its potential importance, what characterizes recent cosmopolitanism research is an idealist sentiment that considerably marginalizes the significance of the structures of nation-state and citizenship, while leaving unspecified the empirical sociological dimensions of cosmopolitanism itself. Our critique aims at making cosmopolitanism a more productive analytical tool. We argue for a cosmopolitanism that consists of conceptually and empirically identifiable values and outlooks. While there has been some progress made in this direction in the recent literature on cosmopolitanism, most writing still considers cosmopolitanism as something so delicate that it cannot be measured. Furthermore, in order to appreciate the full currency of the concept, we argue that researchers must not only agree on some common determinants of cosmopolitanism and cosmopolitan dispositions, but also ground their analyses of cosmopolitanism in the context of enduring nation-state structures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-136
Number of pages22
JournalTheory, Culture & Society
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • citizenship
  • cosmopolitan disposition
  • cosmopolitanism
  • globalization
  • government
  • mobilities

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