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The State Made Me Do It: How Anti-cosmopolitanism is Created by the State

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  • David Vestergaard Axelsen, Denmark
Anti-cosmopolitans claim that our obligations towards compatriots greatly outweigh (and in some cases eclipse) duties towards foreigners, and that our relationship with the latter is of a sort that does not include strong, redistributive obligations as a matter of justice. Contradicting this claim, cosmopolitans hold that our obligations towards compatriots and non-compatriots are equally strong (or for weak cosmopolitans, almost equally strong), and thus, we should redistribute resources from rich to poor on a much larger scale than we are currently doing. The present article does not provide an independent argument for cosmopolitanism. Instead it grants a number of key anti-cosmopolitan premises, and argues that even if we accept these, we have good reasons to deny the conclusions. More specifically, the article attempts to show that national identity and anti-cosmopolitan sentiments are to a non-insignificant degree created and upheld by state institutions and policies. Hence, contrary to what some anti-cosmopolitans hold, we cannot conclude that people are unable to fulfil strong, redistributive duties towards foreigners, but only that they cannot do so under the state policies currently pursued (most importantly, but not exclusively) in Western democracies and the present institutional background. Furthermore, the fact that we are shaping the content and depth of this relationship and rendering people unable to meet these obligations through our choice of state policies is a questionable foundation for basing conclusions about justice. The article finally claims that alternative policies could plausibly make the relationship between non-compatriots be understood as deeper and more worthy as an end in itself, making people capable of meeting strong(er) obligations towards non-compatriots, and that anti-cosmopolitans have not shown why we should not prefer such policies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Political Philosophy
Pages (from-to)451-472
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013

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