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Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom

Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom

David Harvey
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom
    Book Description:

    Liberty and freedom are frequently invoked to justify political action. Presidents as diverse as Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush have built their policies on some version of these noble values. Yet in practice, idealist agendas often turn sour as they confront specific circumstances on the ground. Demonstrated by incidents at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, the pursuit of liberty and freedom can lead to violence and repression, undermining our trust in universal theories of liberalism, neoliberalism, and cosmopolitanism.

    Combining his passions for politics and geography, David Harvey charts a cosmopolitan order more appropriate to an emancipatory form of global governance. Political agendas tend to fail, he argues, because they ignore the complexities of geography. Incorporating geographical knowledge into the formation of social and political policy is therefore a necessary condition for genuine democracy.

    Harvey begins with an insightful critique of the political uses of freedom and liberty, especially during the George W. Bush administration. Then, through an ontological investigation into geography's foundational concepts-space, place, and environment-he radically reframes geographical knowledge as a basis for social theory and political action. As Harvey makes clear, the cosmopolitanism that emerges is rooted in human experience rather than illusory ideals and brings us closer to achieving the liberation we seek.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51991-5
    Subjects: Population Studies, Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. 1-14)

    The concepts of freedom and liberty have played a huge role in the history of what might be called The American Ideology, with all manner of material consequences. On the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, for example, an op-ed piece under President George W. Bush’s name appeared in the New York Times. He there avowed that we “are determined to stand for the values that gave our nation its birth” because a “peaceful world of growing freedom serves America’s long term interests, reflects enduring American ideals and unites America’s allies.” He then concluded that humanity now...

  5. Part One: Universal Values

    • Chapter One Kant’s Anthropology and Geography
      (pp. 17-36)

      I begin with Kant because his inspiration for the contemporary approach to cosmopolitanism is impossible to ignore. I cite perhaps the most famous passage from his essay on “Perpetual Peace”: “The peoples of the earth have entered in varying degrees into a universal community, and it is developed to the point where a violation of laws in one part of the world is felt everywhere. The idea of a cosmopolitan law is therefore not fantastic and overstrained; it is a necessary complement to the unwritten code of political and international law, transforming it into a universal law of humanity.”¹


    • Chapter Two The Postcolonial Critique of Liberal Cosmopolitanism
      (pp. 37-50)

      It is one thing to go after the abstractions of Kant’s ethical cosmopolitanism but quite another to take on the philosophy and practices of liberalism. But this is precisely what a group of postcolonial writers, inspired by Eric Stokes and culminating in the works of Dipesh Chakrabarty and, above all, Uday Singh Mehta, have done so brilliantly with respect to the ideas and practices of nineteenth-century British liberalism in India. Mehta puts it this way: “Liberal theoretical claims typically tend to be transhistorical, transcultural, and more certainly transracial. The declared and ostensible referent of liberal principles is quite literally a...

    • Chapter Three The Flat World of Neoliberal Utopianism
      (pp. 51-76)

      Thomas Friedman begins his best-seller, The World Is Flat, with an account of an epiphany experienced on a golf course in downtown Bangalore in southern India. His playing partner, pointing “to two shiny glass-and-steel buildings off in the distance, just behind the first green,” suggested he aim either at IBM or at Microsoft. After he had gotten to the eighteenth green (having encountered Hewlett Packard and Texas Instruments on the back nine), Friedman called his wife to say, “Honey, the world is flat.” Free-market globalization and rapid technological changes have, he says, produced a world of

      digitalization, virtualization, and automation...

    • Chapter Four The New Cosmopolitans
      (pp. 77-97)

      By what set of institutional arrangements might all the inhabitants of planet earth hope to negotiate, preferably in a peaceful manner, their common occupancy of a finite globe? This was the question that animated Kant’s cosmopolitan quest. If the question was prescient in 1800, when the global population was no more than 1 billion, then it is, surely, compelling today when the global population stands at 6.2 billion and rising. The benefits to be had and life-chances derived from open trade and commerce would be seriously curtailed, Kant held, unless merchants entering foreign lands were accorded the right to hospitality....

    • Chapter Five The Banality of Geographical Evils
      (pp. 98-122)

      Liberalism, neoliberalism, and cosmopolitanism all leave Kant’s suggested requirement for an adequate foundation in a science of geography to one side. Their universal claims are transhistorical, transcultural, and treated as valid, independent of any rootedness in the facts of geography, ecology, and anthropology. Theories derived from these claims dominate fields of study such as economics (monetarism, rational expectations, public choice, human capital theory), political science (rational choice), international relations (game theory), jurisprudence (law and economics), business administration (theories of the firm), and even psychology (autonomous individualism). These universal forms of thinking are so widely diffused and so commonly accepted as...

  6. Part Two: Geographical Knowledges

    • Chaper Six Geographical Reason
      (pp. 125-132)

      If the devil all too often lies in the geographical details when it comes to either the unintended consequences or the willful use of noble universal principles of freedom, justice, and liberty for nefarious purposes of localized exploitation and domination, then we should pay very careful attention to how geographical knowledges are produced and used. Their seeming banality, furthermore, makes it seem as if there is little or no point in interrogating the obvious, when it turns out that this obviousness is a mask for something far more problematic. The ruses of geographical reason are far more sophisticated and complicated...

    • Chapter Seven Spacetime and the World
      (pp. 133-165)

      The word space internalizes multiple meanings. Confusions arise because different meanings get conflated in inadmissible ways. Sorting out these confusions is essential to the clarification of all manner of substantive issues. Alfred North Whitehead claimed, for example, that “it is hardly more than a pardonable exaggeration to say that the determination of the meaning of nature reduces itself principally to the discussion of the character of time and the character of space.”¹ I would likewise claim that many of the key terms we use to characterize the world around us—such as city, state, community, neighborhood, ecosystem and region—cannot...

    • Chapter Eight Places, Regions, Territories
      (pp. 166-201)

      “Place is the first of all things,” said Aristotle, and influential twentieth-century philosophers, such as Heidegger and Bachelard, agree. Edward Casey has probably done more than anyone else in recent years to explore the history and contemporary relevance of this idea. He complains forcefully at the priority given to space over place in Enlightenment thought, and in the process he challenges the very foundation of Kant’s cosmopolitanism. Kant’s paradigmatic statement that “general knowledge must always precede local knowledge,” says Casey, “sets the stage—indeed, still holds the stage in many ways—for the idea that space precedes place.” In the...

    • Chapter Nine The Nature of Environment
      (pp. 202-248)

      Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel, with its portentous subtitle “The Fates of Human Societies,” has sold well over a million copies since it was first published in 1997. As of October 2006, when it finally fell off the list, it had been among the New York Times top twenty best sellers for 205 weeks. “History,” Diamond argues in the book, “followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.” Geography, he argues, is the “primary cause” that operates through the “proximate causes” of food production, animal husbandry,...

      (pp. 249-284)

      We are now in a position to return to the question that Martha Nussbaum left open: what kind of geographical, anthropological, and ecological knowledge would be required to adequately ground a liberatory cosmopolitan politics? W. Pattison’s definition of the different traditions of geographical inquiry opened up the way to a critical engagement with three foundational concepts that underpin all forms of geographical knowledge—space, place, and environment. Within the discipline of geography, the tendency has been to treat these three conceptual realms separately. The spatial is generally viewed as systematic, mathematical (geometrical), and amenable to the scientific study of spatial...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 285-308)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 309-324)
  9. Index
    (pp. 325-340)