Canons, Traditions and Cosmopolitanism
Choosing the “Units” of Analysis
Can we turn to new and different intellectual resources without reproducing the categories and modes of inquiry pertaining to a Westcentric understanding of political theory? In order to avoid reinscribing a specific understanding of what even counts as political theory, this chapter argues that a cosmopolitan political thought requires a method of investigation allowing each tradition and its members to identify and assign value to its own intellectual resources, according to standards internal to that tradition. The chapter posits an approach which involves three critical interventions in the canonical understandings of a tradition’s resources: genealogical investigation, internal investigations of power and dissent, and finally, immersion within the scholarly, vocational practices of knowledge-production and reproduction within a society. Such an approach should seek out those insights that either displace the centrality of Western preoccupations with particular kinds of questions, or explore seemingly familiar questions in ways that reveal the narrow specificity of the West’s own modes of political inquiry. Examples include explorations of the Confucian concept of ren, Koranic exegesis in Islam, and Gandhi’s asceticism.
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