The right to travel: cosmopolitanism as imperial ideology

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After a short discussion of cosmopolitanism and empire in ancient Stoicism, the chapter focuses on the role of cosmopolitanism in early modern political philosophy. I show that cosmopolitanism in general and the right to travel in particular played an important role in justifying Spanish and other European colonial conquest. At the same time, many early modern philosophers argued against empire and universal monarchy, which they saw as inherently despotic. The end result was a vision of free trade and the state of nature as a kind of empire without an emperor. In the final part, I show that this historical background is important for understanding Kant’s republican cosmopolitanism, and I argue that the dilemmas and paradoxes created by the early modern use of cosmopolitanism to justify empire are important for understanding present-day criticism of the international order.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCosmopolitanism, migration and universal human rights
EditorsMogens Chrom Jacobsen, Emnet Berhanu Gebre, Drago Župarić-Iljić
Number of pages13
Publication date2020
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-50644-5
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-50645-2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • social work and social conditions

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