Kantianism in 21st century politics

An analysis of cosmopolitanism from a multidisciplinary review

Larissa Campos dos Santos Pacheco – NUPRI Working Paper 05 – julho 2020


In 1999, Mary Kaldor defined cosmopolitanism as a positive political vision embracing multiculturalism, civility, and democracy. This philosophical thought combines respect for universal Human Rights principles with a commitment to non-sectarianism through promotion and embracement of cultural diversity. However, the placement of moral universalism as a guide to conduct international relations can be seen in earlier studies from diverse disciplines. Therefore, this research is developed under a multidisciplinary analysis and it aims to raise a concise debate on cosmopolitanism based on different theoretical approaches from Philosophy, Sociology to International Relations. Initially, Kant, and then, Habermas and Linklater have posited different names, definitions, and concepts, but an onward analogy can be raised in their key message by recognizing common aspects of their ideas related to cosmopolitanism. Although cosmopolitanism has been considered idealistic by a few researchers, it has northern the discourse and work of international institutions as the United Nations and regional projects as the European Union. Noteworthy, even though cosmopolitan ideas have been embedded in international life, the ascension of nationalist discourses through politics of exclusion presents a daunting perspective to the previous endeavor to embrace multiculturalism in international relations. Furthermore, this paper acknowledges aspects of our contemporary international structures that illustrate underlying notions of cosmopolitanism in public life – many perceived in the earlier studies of Kant. Above all, this work aims to induce International Relations scholars to think politics beyond the state and re-evaluate social relations beyond the bias of nationalism.