In his famous address at the Sorbonne in Paris, Albert Einstein laid ironically the stress on the very limits of the concept of “global citizenship”. Indeed, even though the process of globalisation of trade, science or more generally speaking “culture” have unquestionably aroused international and, above all, supra-national common stakes, the sentiment of belonging to a country and the concrete exercise of rights and liberties have remained fiercely linked with the concept of the nation-state, that is to say “territoriality”. The major problem is that, in the actual and cumulative process of globalisation –nevertheless still restrained to certain domains, above all economic-related –, the concept of citizenship itself has appeared changing and even versatile insofar as it has been equally used by antagonistic actors (defenders of Anglo-Saxon economic liberal theories and alter-globalisation defenders, pro-EU and sovereignists, liberal intellectuals and nationalists…) with different meanings and different purposes. So because citizenship has always been a concept liable to different definitions and interpretations, the context of the outstripping of the nation-state has led to a certain “speculation” that had created an immense gap between those who claim that being a Man is enough to be called a “citizen of the world” as a part of the “cosmos” (the rationally organised universe) and those, at the other extremity of the spectrum, who argue that cosmopolitanism is an empty utopia with the absence of global, supranational political institutions and common rights and duties.
[...] For all that, we can say that we can only talk about “global citizenship” in terms of the development of a cosmopolitan consciousness and sentiment of living in an interconnected world where economic but also increasingly political, social, cultural, ecological interferences are becoming more and more inevitable. But political legitimacy has great difficulty to outstrip the nation-state without generating fear of technocratic, bureaucratic distant governing and deprivation of the right to choose for ourselves. So we cannot really talk about global citizenship understood as a set of global effective rights and duties since even international agreements on pollution, atomic energy, economic governance, conflict pacification or international courts of justice are subject to the good will of member states that still rates national concerns and interests higher than global solutions. [...]
[...] So we will have to discuss the meaning of global citizenship in the contemporary context with both conceptions. Secondly, citizenship has historically been strongly linked with the development and the consolidation (either a priori or a posteriori) of the nation-state. Indeed, although the legacy of Stoic cosmopolitanism found immense repercussions in Humanism, as exemplified by Descartes' universal reason and later in Enlightenment philosophers such as Kant who claimed the “cosmopolitan destiny of humanity” which did not have vocation to fragmentation and war, the development of the typically European paradigm of the nation-state since the 16th and 17th century (and first a Western European feature embodied by the examples of Great Britain, Spain and France in the 16th and 17th century, then by Italy and Germany in the late 19th century) favoured the more restricted definition of citizenship. [...]
[...] Finally, globalisation has created a new embryonic framework of supranational regulation in which all the actors of the global civil society can be heard through lobbyism for instance and where the concept of “global governance” has emerged to fill in the international political vacuum (no real governing at supranational level). After WWI, the Bretton Wood negotiations dominated by Keynesian theses put forward the need for a set of supranational institutions aiming at regulating the development of world economy, avoiding protectionist reactions and promoting multilateralism. [...]
[...] The difficulty is to clearly identify which kind of citizenship we are talking about while saying “global citizenship”, that is to say to define the attributes of a so-called “citizen of the world” (or at least a European citizen). On the one hand, we can say that to a certain extent, The logic of the world economy has in many ways transcended the scale of nation-states (Knox and Agnew, 1998: 372). Globalisation is a complex phenomenon based on an economic dynamic of internationalisation of trade and the emergence of a single world market but that entails significant geographical, political and cultural repercussions. [...]
[...] Finally, if we adhere to the definition of citizenship that emphasizes the role of the concrete exercise of political rights and of the possibility of control and accountability vis-à-vis political institutions, “global citizenship” seems to be a contradiction since citizenship relies on the existence of a closed territory in which civic virtue is promoted. Then today, there is no real political supranational institution with the exception of the European Parliament and political decisions, that always imply choices of values, are still made at a national (or even regional) level. [...]
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