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Public Culture 14.1 (2002) 147-171



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Imagining Solidarity:
Cosmopolitanism, Constitutional Patriotism, and the Public Sphere

Craig Calhoun


Globalization and the coming of postnational and transnational society are often presented as matters of necessity. Globalization appears as an inexorable force--perhaps of progress, perhaps simply of a capitalist juggernaut, but in any case irresistible. European integration, for example, is often sold to voters as a necessary response to the global integration of capital. In Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere, a similar economistic imaginary is deployed to suggest that globalization moves of itself, and governments and citizens have only the option of adapting. Even where the globalist imaginary is not overwhelmingly economistic, it commonly shares in the image of a progressive and imperative modernization. Many accounts of the impact and implications of information technology exemplify this.

Alternatives to globalization, on the other hand, are generally presented in terms of inherited identities and solidarities in need of defense. Usually this means nations and cultural identities imagined on the model of nations; sometimes it means religions, civilizations, or other structures of identity presented by their advocates as received rather than created. The social imaginary of inherited cultural tradition and social identity is prominent in ideologies like Hindutva and [End Page 147] essential Ethiopianness, for example, as well as widespread notions of "cultural survival." These are denigrated by proponents of transnational society, who see national and many other local solidarities as backward or outmoded, impositions of the past on the present. Both nationalist economic protectionism and Islamist movements, thus, are seen as being simply the regressive opposite of globalization. In each case, such a perspective leaves obscure the transnational organization of the resistance movement.

In many settings, the economistic, or technologistic, imaginary of globalization is embraced by the very political leaders who advocate nationalist, religious, or other imaginaries that emphasize inherited cultural identity. The contradiction is avoided by assigning these to separate spheres. The Chinese phrase ti-yong has long signaled this, a condensation of "Western learning for material advancement, Eastern learning for spiritual essence." Similarly divided imaginaries inform many Asian, Middle Eastern, and other societies. Even in Canada, a recent Financial Times article reported, "the country wants to become a lean global competitor while maintaining traditional local values." 1

In this essay, I take up two aspects of this discourse of globalization. First, I want to call attention to the dominance it grants social imaginaries that emphasize necessity and obscure options for political choice. Second, I want to address the inadequacy of most approaches to social solidarity in this literature. I will focus especially on the work of advocates of "cosmopolitan" approaches to transnational politics, including Jürgen Habermas with his notion of "constitutional patriotism."

I don't mean to denigrate cosmopolitanism--in which I hope I share--but to problematize its acceptance of economistic, modernizing imaginaries without giving adequate attention to the formation of solidarity and the conditions that enable collective choices about the nature of society. In addition to questioning whether "thin identities" are adequate underpinnings for democracy, I will suggest that the public sphere be conceptualized not simply as a setting for rational debate and decision making--thus largely disregarding or transcending issues of identity--but as a setting for the development of social solidarity as a matter of choice, rather than necessity. Such choice may be partly rational and explicit, but is also a matter of "world-making" in Hannah Arendt's sense. The production of new culture is as important as inheritance (and distinctions between the two are less clear than common usage implies). We should accordingly broaden the sense [End Page 148] of constitutional patriotism to include culture-forming and institution-shaping senses of constitution, as well as narrowly legal-political ones. New ways of imagining identity, interests, and solidarity make possible new material forms of social relations. These in turn underwrite mutual commitments. The moment of choice can never be fully separated from that of creativity or construction.

Cosmopolitanism and Constitutional Patriotism

Contemplating simultaneously the questions of German integration and European integration, Habermas has called for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-8018
Print ISSN
0899-2363
Pages
pp. 147-171
Launched on MUSE
2002-01-01
Open Access
No
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