Cosmopolitans and Zoopolitans

by John Holbo on September 2, 2013

Haven’t read Appiah on moral revolutions yet so I’ll just give you a bit from his Cosmopolitanism: Ethics In A World Of Strangers, which I am also reading.

Maybe, though, the term can be rescued [from the negative connotations]. It has certainly proved a survivor. Cosmopolitanism dates at least to the Cynics of the fourth century BC, who first coined the expression cosmopolitan, “citizen of the cosmos.” The formulation was meant to be paradoxical, and reflected the general Cynic skepticism toward custom and tradition. A citizen—a polite–s—belonged to a particular polis, a city to which he or she owed loyalty. The cosmos referred to the world, not in the sense of the earth, but in the sense of the universe. Talk of cosmopolitanism originally signaled, then, a rejection of the conventional view that every civilized person belonged to a community among communities.

I posted about this a couple years back. Short version: ‘kosmos’ is a matter of order – military order, cosmetics, ‘getting it together’ – more than vastness, sublimity (‘to boldly go!’) So maybe Diogenes was saying, in effect: I’m a citizen of wherever they’ve actually got good government. Or even: I’m a Utopian. Or: I’m a citizen of nature. Or: I’m a citizen of the natural order, the true order of things.

I got mild pushback in comments. (You don’t want to rehash old comments threads? Fine! Go read something else.)

nick t. wrote: “And the idea of forcing “kosmos” to mean “well-ordered” is alarming. “Eukosmos” would be the right root for this.” I responded that ‘kosmos’ sort of slides into ‘eukosmos’. (‘Pull yourself together!’ doesn’t mean any which way.) To which the response was: “The problem in all of this is that you are more or less arguing from intuition, rather than looking at actual usage, which would be decisive.” It was suggested I should read read A. A. Long, “The concept of the cosmopolitan in Greek & Roman thought,” which I only just got around to doing. And I think it actually supports my suggestions for odd-ball translations.

We are probably warranted in crediting Diogenes with the idea that human nature in its rational capacities transcends all civic and ethnic boundaries. Diogenes’s cosmopolitanism was normative rather than descriptive, though. His worldwide city should be regarded as the community of the wise, an ideal of enlightened persons united not by local or relational ties but by the common values they share – a group that understands what human nature needs in order to perfect itself.

That’s not all the way to ‘I’m a citizen of Utopia,’ but it ain’t far. (Certainly I wouldn’t say ‘you can’t get there from here’.) Here’s something else Long says:

Citizenship of the world presupposes the existence of cities in the ordinary sense of the word: settled communities with precise territorial boundaries, cultural traditions, laws, political institutions, and social identities. In Homer’s epic poetry, our principal written source for earliest Greece, full-fledged cities are not part of the main narrative, which looks back to less formally structured communities governed by hereditary chieftains. There are fortified palatial settlements, centralized farmsteads, such as the home of Odysseus on Ithaca, and the great citadel of Troy, but nothing that we can call a polis in the sense of a Greek city-state.

This gets complicated, but the implication seems to be that cosmopolitanism wasn’t originally a positive, stand-alone doctrine – we need a world-state! – so much as a conceptual counterweight to inevitable parochialism. But parochialism of a particular, civilized sort. Diogenes’ line wouldn’t have been heard right by Homer, let alone in the world Homer described. (But maybe you could have made a parallel joke: ‘I’m a member of the world-tribe’?) When we move on to large-scale kingdoms and empires, ‘I’m a citizen of the world’ would risk sounding too conventional. ‘Yes, that’s right, you are a citizen of the Roman empire and its world-spanning laws. What’s your point?’

‘I am a citizen of the world,’ far from calling for a world-state, makes sense in a context in which an actual world-state doesn’t readily spring to mind as a (conventional) possibility. In the world of the Greek city-states – a civilized world, but a small world – you need cosmopolitanism as a stretching exercise for the mind, to keep it from going artificial and stiff. For us today, it’s sort of the same. We (most of us) take for granted that the world naturally consists of nation-states and that it’s a small world. Hence cosmopolitanism is necessary, not as a positive, stand-alone doctrine, but as a counterweight to various bad tendencies.

Which brings me to another point – another oft-quoted bit. Aristotle: man is by nature a political animal. This is almost always quoted, approvingly, as an expression of an obvious truth that is good to keep in mind: we humans are social animals. But Aristotle actually seems to mean it more narrowly: humans, by nature, are born to live in a Greek-style polis. The polis is, of course, a highly particular social-political form. (And, far from basing his judgment on some sensible anthropological inductions, Aristotle is arguing from what is best. Like one might argue that humans are all natural-born Californians. It’s sort of true. But only sort of.)

I don’t have a huge point to draw out of this, and I’m not proposing this as a shocking bombshell of Aristotle interpretation. (I really don’t know a thing about the secondary literature about the Politics. Not my thing. Feel free to tell me all about it.) It’s interesting the way these sayings – ‘I am a citizen of the world,”Man is a political animal’ – that seem to travel so well, are such stay-at-home sentiments, in a way. Maybe.



John Holbo 09.02.13 at 2:45 am

Should it be: ‘zoonpolitans’?


John Holbo 09.02.13 at 2:46 am

I mean, I know what the Greek is. But what is the proper way to butcher it at the joints?


QS 09.02.13 at 5:39 am

“We (most of us) take for granted that the world naturally consists of nation-states”

If by “we” you mean academic/intellectuals, this misses the great debates across the social sciences about the changing nature of the nation and state in the contemporary era (whether you call it a small world, a globalized world, or whatever) which has decisively revealed (what history could have taught us anyway, a la Hendrik Spruyt) that the nation-state is a highly contingent formation. Given the economic and ecological forces that are pulling distant persons and places together into world-spanning social networks, with nodes of capital as the primary drivers of this transition, I’d say we already have cosmological economic and ecological systems. But we are clearly not becoming cosmopolitan, in the Greek sense wherein one (person, community, nation, or state) is a true member of this kosmos, an equal amongst equals. If cosmopolitanism is to be useful today, it’s as a reminder that global economic/ecological forces are reshaping the world around us and that there is no -polis formation in which “we” can shape these forces. Or to put it more simply, cosmopolitanism can be used to point out the democratic deficit that defines contemporary political life. A world-shaping economic-ecologic order requires a world-shaping polity.


Meredith 09.02.13 at 5:45 am

It’s amazing how hard it is to sort out what all those Greeks thought they were saying — which may not be the same thing as what they were saying, after all, much less what (ab)use we can make of either. Or something.

For now just to say, you’re right on kosmos — no eu necessary, it’s merely an intensifier. (Interesting to compare Latin munditia/ae — cf. mundus.) A sense that there is some whole (a god-term? hello, Stoics) to which all the parts contribute in a complementary, fitting-together way.

I suspect Homer’s aristoi would have recognized Hellenistic or contemporary cosmopolites immediately — those Homeric aristoi who formed relationships of xenia and marriage across great distances (of space, even of language and culture), who went to war when the ethical norms of those relationships were violated (Helen! Troy!), all while maintaining complex and profound relationships of power, obligation, and affection to those who remained truly rooted “at home,” many of whom would die defending the HONOR of a Menelaus or Agamemnon. The same pan-Hellenes, in fact, who sustained the poet/s “Homer.” (How else did we get an Iliad or Odyssey?) What’s wonderful, of course, is that Homer(s) both creates this pan-Hellenic (I include Troy in this pan) world and calls its consequences into question: The Trojans never stole any of my cattle! But then, what is “mine”? Or to put it another way, Homer takes the “pan” part seriously. I suspect that Diogenes is a kind of a latter-day Homer. Each is cosmopolitan. For the Cynics and Homer, this citizens-of-the-kosmos business means people who are very down to earth, very much connected to specific people and places, people and places to be understood properly by being understood fully (kosmos-ly), in the recognition of others’ experience of specific people and places.


Random Lurker 09.02.13 at 11:03 am

“Short version: ‘kosmos’ is a matter of order – military order, cosmetics, ‘getting it together’ – more than vastness, sublimity (‘to boldly go!’) So maybe Diogenes was saying, in effect: I’m a citizen of wherever they’ve actually got good government. Or even: I’m a Utopian. Or: I’m a citizen of nature. Or: I’m a citizen of the natural order, the true order of things.”

For what I can understand, philosophers in the middle ages believed that the world was inerently understandable and rational, because God is the logos (and therefore rationality, but in a sort of ethical sense). Thus I think that, from the point of view of a middle ages thinker, there was a “true order of things”, that understandable, was rational and good, and the material world was just a crappy version of this.

From my point of view, this is a sort of “projection”: people in their mind have a sort of idealized view of the world, but project this view on the material world and see the material world as the “corruption” of the world that exists only in their minds.
From a “cosmologic” point of view this is stupid, but from an ethic/social point of view this isn’t equally stupid: institutions such as “law” or “the king” are just a reflection of an ethic intuition that exists in the mind of the people (so for example the “really existing king” is just a corruption of the ideal of the “just king”).
The problem of the middle ages guys is that they couldn’t really make a distinction between the “natural/cosmologic” and the “ethic/social”.

I think that this confusion between “ethics” and “nature” was common also in antiquity, and that in this sense the idea of “kosmos” as order is similar to the “rational” world of the middle ages scholastics. In this sense, “I’m a citizen of the natural order, the true order of things” is really a very trans-historical view, though what the “true order of things” was supposed to be, and what was supposed to be “corruption”, changed through time.


Neville Morley 09.02.13 at 12:15 pm

Perhaps also worth throwing into the mix the idea of ‘apolitanism’, implied by Lucian’s claim that the good historian must be ‘apolites’, ‘without a city’ – in other words, someone who rises above the ‘natural’ loyalties and expectations that one would automatically favour one’s own group and disparage everyone else. Not a popular notion in antiquity, of course; Thucydides is criticised extensively for his evenhandedness and willingness to depict Athens in critical terms (which becomes a major reason why he’s then claimed as a model by historians from the Renaissance onwards).

One of the reasons I like it is that it can be scaled up fairly easily: it’s not a rejection solely of the parochial world of the polis, which leaves one vulnerable to the claim of something like the Roman Empire that it actually is the world, or at any rate all the world that matters, and so should command the loyalty of anyone who is at all committed to civilisation, but a rejection of all claims that would seek to over-ride a commitment to truth, reason etc.


pedant 09.02.13 at 12:56 pm

A racehorse is a kind of horse; a horse race is a kind of race. Modifier first, thing modified second.

And that’s how it goes with “cosmopolites,” too: it’s a kind of polites, a cosmic one.

If that’s the general pattern in Greek (is it?), then what you want is not a zoopolitan (which would be a kind of citizen, sc. a bestial one), but rather something like a politikozoon or a politozoon, i.e. a kind of animal.

I agree that “order” generally means good order rather than bad order (this goes back to marked and unmarked pairs, right?) Interesting that “butcher” is the opposite: there’s nothing outright false about “butchering at the joints” or “butchering cleanly”, but it generally means “make a mess of”.


William Timberman 09.02.13 at 1:54 pm

When I hear the word cosmopolitan, I think first of concepts like the brotherhood of man, man the measure of all things, and the like, with a bit of the scientific method, and the boldly go where man has never gone before thrown in for good measure. Never mind what the word actually means, or can be said to have meant, this is how its come down to me through the cultural and educational processes that have created me.

A European friend, hearing this one evening — my boozy confession of oneness with all tribes — clucked his tongue at me, and called me one of those deracinated Americans. It was a fair cop, I guess, and kinda cute, too, given the unconscious echoes in it of a dismissal of those uncultured Americans distilled from the history of his own continent.

Later on, I thought about his bon mot a bit more, and decided, in effect, to wear it with pride. As with Erasmus, so also with Americans — it makes a weird sort of sense — or would, if we were talking about the Americans of De Tocqueville’s time. Most of us have long since fallen off the wagon, which seems a pity to me, and not just because of the occasional excesses of our identity politics, or our penchant for bombing those who refuse to accept our questionable gifts.

Scientists, scholars, and the decent sort of UN bureaucrats have done better, I think. Anyway, if you’re a humanist, this is still something worth aiming at, even if, at the moment, everybody from anthropologists, who think we’re mistaken about where our true allegiances lie, to Jihadis, who remind us, with some justification, that we don’t care about anyone’s self determination but our own, are lining about to throw their righteous stones at us.


PJW 09.02.13 at 3:20 pm

“No man is an island entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main…” (John Donne)


mud man 09.02.13 at 4:34 pm

The quote from Addison at #16 in the previous thread captures the problem of Cosmopolitanism as I see it: … I am a Dane, Swede, or French-Man at different times… Old Man Noah, thought he knew a thing or two, because he knew a thing or two he thought he knew it all. At some point this kind of cultural participation becomes pretty superficial. Having bagels for Sunday breakfast doesn’t make one a Jew. A culture is a Virtue, and in the ethical sense the thing is to have a Virtue one is willing to stick to, to stick up for.

There’s a good kind of Cosmopolitanism, like good Secularism, that takes some things as necessary for a successful world order to regulate, and some things it should just keep its paws off of, but I don’t think a successful human can spend their whole life there. IANL, but Greeks understood that Greeks were primarily Citizens of but at least they weren’t Barbarians.

The point about Homeric tribes demonstrates that while cultural groups need boundaries of membership, such boundaries need not be (are not essentially or in origin) territorial. This is one theme CJ Cherryh explores in her Atevi novels. Did membership in a School of Philosophy come to replace citizenship in a Polis for the post-classical Greeks??


Gene O'Grady 09.02.13 at 5:48 pm

No. 4, it’s always been my understanding that Homer knows Hellenes/Panhellenes only as local tribes (if that’s the right word), not the cultural unity the word later described.

Bonus points: Translate simplex munditiis into Greek. Further bonus points: Work Pericles’ citizenship law into the discussion.


john c. halasz 09.02.13 at 8:05 pm

Is “kosmos” “world” or “universe”? (Of course, when Heidegger deliniated the notion of “the worldhood of the world” he was deliberately attempting to retrieve the “original” Greek meaning of “kosmos” in modernized form).

At any rate, when Diogenes of Sinope declared himself a kosmopolites, it was a satirical gesture, as well as, a deliberate blasphemy against Greek political religion. (Those Greek polises or poleis were always fighting each other in various combinations, always under the aegis of particular gods). It’s of a piece with those other gestural Diogenes stories, (his “writings” not have survived, though likely they were similarly gestural). It was also a declaration of philosophical self-sufficiency, ataraxia, with a sharply anti-Platonic thrust.

Hegel has a few choice pages denouncing Diogenes as the product of an already over-ripe civilization, past its prime. Though I think he makes for a perfect patron saint or tutelary figure for “Occupy” and such-like movements, having fled his natal polis due to bankruptcy or some such financial scandal.

As to Aristotle’s defining “man” as the “zoon politikon”, is that really some sort of normative deduction? It’s a matter of interpretation, I suppose, and of how one fits that in systematically with other parts of his thought. But I would take him as making an observation and indicating how human beings, with their distinctive features, fit in, via the polis, with the rest of the kosmos. The polis, he says, may have come into being for the sake of life, but it remains in being for the good life, for the organization of social life around a common good, in which the various virtues or excellences can develop and flourish. But the good order of the polis, necessary for any distinctively human life, is limited by and must fit in with the order of the kosmos, with the two mirroring each other analogically. (Consider why “The Politics” ends with a discussion of the effects of various musical modes upon the soul). But there is no clear divide between the natural and the normative there in Aristotle, just limited ends. And the plural world of limited polises is just part of what he perceives as intelligible order. Barbarians, like slaves, don’t interest him much.


Meredith 09.02.13 at 8:21 pm

Gene Grady @10. “it’s always been my understanding that Homer knows Hellenes/Panhellenes only as local tribes (if that’s the right word), not the cultural unity the word later described.” That’s true. I was thinking both of the relationships among aristoi within the Iliad and Odyssey (of xenia, of marriage, of trade — think Mentes’ visit to Ithaka in Odyssey 1) and of the historical conditions that could have produced an Iliad or Odyssey, a world of localities/tribes (and then there’s Troy, a real city) whose elites interacted extensively with one another, creating elaborate connections of friendship, marriage, trade, alliance in war, colonizing projects, religious projects, and not least, poetic projects. To use the term differently from the way Homer himself uses it, the Iliad and Odyssey are “panhellenic” projects registering and promoting a “cosmopolitan” world of a sort.

And Horace’s simplex munditiis is exactly what I had in mind….


Frank Ashe 09.02.13 at 9:27 pm

I’m a citizen of the natural world, the true order of things.

At which point Diogenes is reaching out, in a very cosmopolitan fashion, to Lao Zi at the other end of the Silk Road.


John Holbo 09.02.13 at 10:22 pm

“If that’s the general pattern in Greek (is it?), then what you want is not a zoopolitan (which would be a kind of citizen, sc. a bestial one), but rather something like a politikozoon or a politozoon, i.e. a kind of animal.”

You are right. Politozoon it is. Sounds like protozoan.


Belle Waring 09.03.13 at 2:48 am

Gene O’Grady: I’ve already passed my PhD Greek Prose Composition Exam thank you very much! That is not one of the things I miss about Classics. (Though, I did try to get a Greek Poetics Composition class started, but no one would do it with me.) My Latin one, set by a certain A.A. Long who shall otherwise remain nameless, was: translate the London Times obituary of Winston Churchill into Latin in the style of Cicero. I had two days, I guess, not awful. Particularly silly in the California sunshine.

Since it’s specifically the English word–rather than the Greek one, if you see what I mean–I often associate cosmopolitan with “rootless cosmopolites” and their associated Stalinist purges. Not that it helped to be more deeply rooted in the land in, say, Ukraine.


Hector_St_Clare 09.03.13 at 3:02 am

Re: Since it’s specifically the English word–rather than the Greek one, if you see what I mean–I often associate cosmopolitan with “rootless cosmopolites” and their associated Stalinist purges

As you will remember from your Latin Exams, the abuse does not take away the use. Or, just because Stalin criticised cosmopolitanism, does not mean that cosmopolitanism is a good thing.


Hector_St_Clare 09.03.13 at 3:07 am

Re: Or: I’m a citizen of the natural order, the true order of things.

I would say this: my first and foremost loyalty is not to America, nor to Venezuela, nor to Cuba, but to the natural order: to common sense, virtue, and morality.


Gene O'Grady 09.03.13 at 4:46 am

Ms. Waring, I’m sorry if I insulted you, but I’m not sure exactly what I said.

I’m afraid that composition is one of the things I miss about Classics, both my undergraduate composition courses with Peter Marshall and Anne Lebeck, and my graduate Greek course with Lionel Pearson, which I repeated twice after I’d met the requirement because I was learning so much. About the graduate Latin course silence is the best course, although the guy that taught it did come up with some elementary exercises in Greek composition that showed just how hard it was to produce trimeters even when they gave you most of the words.

Writing in the style of Cicero as opposed to Livy or Tacitus or the preface to an OCT was a very valuable exercise that I’m glad to have had; whether anyone else will ever have it again I know not.

If you were reacting to the bit about simplex munditiis, my real unspoken point was that I’m not sure there is a way to say that in Greek (leaving unsaid whether there’s one to say it in English).


Bruce Baugh 09.03.13 at 5:52 am

I’m with William Timberman on this one. I’m interested in etymologies and all the complexities of usage through time, but if I were to become convinced that “cosmopolitan” were the wrong word, I’d just be looking for another one to capture the aspiration of an identity grounded in humanity as a whole, transcending local boundaries in a way that gives people like Hector fits.


Pino 09.03.13 at 7:09 am

To take this discussion into a totally different direction: in the post-Stalin Soviet Union, cosmopolotian, cosmopolitanism was used as a pejorative term for jews without sounding overtly anti-semitic (to western ears). The Soviet establishment may have used the term within the meaning discussed above, referring to citizens that they though of as not belonging to their community, rejecting the SU.


maidhc 09.03.13 at 8:27 am

I’ve always been disappointed that no one followed in the footsteps of Canadian politician Amor de Cosmos, at least as far as naming is concerned. (His policies were a bit of a mixed bag.)


stearm74 09.03.13 at 9:47 am

Cosmopolitical may mean also that we, as human beings, belong to two different orders, the order of Nature and the order of Society (Polis). It reflects more a human condition or the existence of two separate, but nonetheless, ontologically intertwined, problematics.


Agog 09.03.13 at 10:21 am

The idea of Diogenes of Sinope declaring himself to be a cosmopolitan seems like it could be something projected back by a later Stoic writer, and then uncritically passed on by that ne’er-do-well Laertius. The Cynics were surely completely against the world – meaning the human world, the polis however exclusive or inclusive you care to imagine it. Their whole point was railing against the confusion of local ethics (i.e. what is conventionally thought to be good for us, in our social surroundings, right now) with the more direct apprehension of what is good. I’d like to think that they would resist the idea of a natural order, but that’s very likely my own priors talking.

Bringing in Laozi is good, and I’d also throw in Ä€jÄ«vikism, to further reinforce connections with earlier (and later) ascetic traditions. Some of the stories about Diogenes parallel those of Makkhali Gosala, whose name supposedly commemorates his birth in a cowshed.


CJColucci 09.03.13 at 4:59 pm

Having long ago had small Latin and less Greek, I stand in awe of anyone who can write either in the style of anyone. I was telling a much younger person the other day that in Latin, because of the various cases, word order is largely irrelevant to meaning, as opposed to English, where it is crucial. The youngster then commented, sensibly enough, that Latin authors and speakers probably didn’t just spill out their words in random order, so there must be some convention or method, but I couldn’t explain it.


Jeffrey Davis 09.03.13 at 6:05 pm

A History of Cosmopolitan in 10 1/2 Chapters


Meredith 09.03.13 at 9:59 pm

CJColucci@25, “The youngster then commented, sensibly enough, that Latin authors and speakers probably didn’t just spill out their words in random order, so there must be some convention or method, but I couldn’t explain it.” There are indeed standard word orders in Latin(s) and ancient Greek(s) (both languages having very long histories, with many dialects, and regional and class variations and so forth, at any given time…), as well as, sometimes, some disagreement among modern scholars about those standard word orders.
Short answer: Heavily inflected languages have norms but also more more flexibility about word order, in registering syntax, than a language like English does. A Greek or Latin speaker or writer manipulates word order to create innumerable effects, of emphasis, rhythm, ambiguity…. But there’s a drama in word order in any language — each language has its own dramatic possibilities.


matt 09.03.13 at 10:44 pm

Since the website is called “crooked timber”, a mention might be made of that great modern fan of cosmopolitanism, Kant. For Kant. the “well-ordered whole” in question was not nature, but a system of international law. Accordingly, one can’t at this early date *be* a citizen of the world, one can only be hopeful about the distant future, and do what you can in the meantime– which mainly amounts to promoting republicanism in your native country. Recall also Kant’s denunciation of a world state. You can’t spell “internationalism” without “nationalism”!


Belle Waring 09.04.13 at 6:57 am

Tone on the internet is hard! You guys must not have been reading comments enough, because you’d have noticed that if I’m actually mad at you I’ll overuse the strong tag and say things like, “why don’t you fuck right the fuck off, you worthless rat bastard motherfucking piece of shit. Seriously. Go fuck yourself with a spool of rusty barbed wire.” Anyway,
Gene O’Grady: I wasn’t taking offense! I was literally saying that being asked to render things into Ancient Greek was not a thing I missed greatly or was inclined to do idly when it was suggested, without further value judgments. Let me paraphrase: “LOLWHUT WHUT are we BFFs now? Prose before Hoes!” And I didn’t mean to question your prose-composing bona-fides, either; it’s just that the author of the article in the post set my Latin Prose Examination so I thought it was funny. And I find that people who haven’t studied Classics are inordinately amused by this particular aspect of the courses, because they seem silly, even though they are very hard. They shouldn’t be, really, but there you are. The previous pope could (and can) just write things in Latin all the day long, though I assume it has spiraled off into some variants. I even agree about simplex munditiis as well, and finally, I think Classics grad students at Berkeley, Michigan and Harvard are, at this very moment, being forced to/allowed to enjoy the study of (as disposition suits) Greek and Latin Prose Composition. Wait, extra-finally I could see my way clear to Greek Poetic for the reasons you mention; Latin Poetics Composition has always seemed completely impossible, since every syllable that is not long by nature is long by position, so that I was always been baffled at the start.

Pino: I think even in Stalin’s Soviet Union the rootless cosmopolites in question were disproportionately Jewish. The suggestion that someone owes no allegiance to a particular polity carries with it an almost necessary implication that they are wandering about–perhaps loyal only to one another–for if they were to just settle down and marry nice local girls they’d all be Flemish in three generations, surely. (Flemish chosen at random.) This is still the complaint many Europeans level at the Roma now, surely. Not merely not deeply rooted in local soil but also loyal only to one another, inward looking as a group, drifting, etc. Inward-looking is curious since this is the last thing cosmopolitans should be but when the “charge” of the negative version of cosmopolitanism is brought against any people it does seem necessarily involved. They don’t care about being German citizens and about their fellow-Germans, and they are not truly a part of our social fabric, and they go from one place to another, and the rich ones travel as they please–and–they are loyal only to each other, marry one another, etc. In the main the opressor-class isn’t letting them do anything else, but, OK…a strange inversion.


William Timberman 09.04.13 at 7:31 am

Belle, your Latin composition anecdote certainly struck a chord with me. In my case, it German, rather than Latin or Greek, that provided the humor. The assignment as I remember it was to take a German translation of a passage from A Farewell to Arms and render it into English, and then to do a German rendition of an English translation of a passage from Der Tod in Venedig.

Somewhat surprisingly, I did okay (not great) with the Mann, but I actually burst into mortified giggles when I compared my English rendition to Hemingway’s original.


Meredith 09.04.13 at 7:42 am

Belle, hello, I spent a brief portion of my morning pulling “mile-a-minute” invasive weed (just another plant, somewhere in Asia, I think) from, not “my own” garden (been doing that all summer), but the junk-growth area between my garden and “the college.” Could instead have been rendering something or other into Greek or Latin, I suppose. Either endeavor would be very hard work. Neither worth doing unless to produce gardens and food and beauty — all that.
Anyway, been thinking for a long time about how weeds succeed when they look exactly like the natives or the intendeds, the good plants, so you don’t think to pull those invasives when they’d be stoppable. Turns out, others who know plants far better than I do, were already on to the problem. Gets complicated fast. If I pull this thingie, is it a good aralia or a bad one?
Stopping is harder that starting, but necessary to enable the starting.


random Lurker 09.04.13 at 2:29 pm

@Belle Waring 29
For what is worth, I think nobody in Italy would refer to Roma people as “cosmopolitans” (“cosmopoliti” in italian).

However, I think that people with certain rightish prejudices would use the word for Jews.

The difference is that, traditionally, Jews are associated with high level, Bilderberg style banking.
In this sense, the term “cosmopolita” conveys the appartenence to the “rootles ruling class”, disconnected from the “real italians”.
This doesn’t happen to the Roma because, while they are seen as different, they are not seen as a ruling class in any real sense.

Thus I wonder wether in russian too “cosmopolitan” conveys “elitist”.

Why does “cosmopolitan” convey “ruling class”?
I think this has to do with old agrarian culture, where most people are strongly rooted in the territory, and only people of some elites (such as intellectuals, lawyers etc.) actually travel and know the world beyond 30km from their home.
This kind of society was imho prevalent in europe up to the early 20th century.

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