Cosmopolitanism, Comparative Political Theory and Civilizational Alterity
In recent years, two movements have emerged which should interest to political theorists. First, “cosmopolitanism” has become the focus of much normative interest within political theory. Simultaneously, political theory has seen the emergence of a sub-field calling itself “comparative political theory,” seeking to introduce non-Western perspectives into familiar debates about human problems. This chapter suggests that each of the above movements, while generally welcome, is characterized by important gaps that deserve sustained attention: in one case, the lack of any reflection on what the recent development of cosmopolitan discourse mean for political theory and for the activity of political theorizing in particular, and in the other case, the relative scarcity of self-conscious methodological reflection within the emerging field calling itself comparative political theory. This chapter identifies the central aporiae in each of these literatures, and argues that they are not unrelated. Political theory itself can evolve toward cosmopolitanism only when explorations of “comparative” political thought occur at the center, rather than at the margins of, the discipline. The chapter articulates the necessity of this cosmopolitan intervention into the modes of political theorizing. It summarizes the various methodological claims and reflections that constitute this intervention, and follow throughout the book.
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