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Cosmopolitanism: ideals and realities

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David Held
Polity Books (October 2010)

This book sets out a philosophical and practical account of contemporary global politics from a cosmopolitan point of view. The volume begins by developing a theory of cosmopolitanism, explicating its core principles and justifications. The role many of these principles have had in global politics is then explored; they have been important in framing the human rights regime and several aspects of international law and politics.

The book then examines how legal and institutional developments at the global level fall short of cosmopolitan ideals. The argument is that this deficit is not inevitable, and can be overcome over time through an ambitious and yet practical agenda of reform. In the second half of the book, chapters are devoted to some of the most pressing issues of our time - financial market crises, climate change, and the fallout from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In each of these areas, the author argues that realist politics is exhausted, and that cosmopolitanism is the new realism.

In short, the book offers a novel approach to thinking about global politics and case studies of its application by one of the best known authors in the field.

  • David Held is Graham Wallace Professor of Political Science at LSE.

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'David Held's new book gives the lie to those who regard cosmopolitanism as a vague set of indeterminate woolly ideals. This is as grounded and as comprehensive account of the cosmopolitan agenda as one could wish for.'
Jeremy Waldron, NYU Law School

'David Held formulates a robust cosmopolitanism and imaginatively applies it to the great faults of our international order: its lack of effective environmental-protection, peacekeeping, and global-finance regimes. The pragmatic reforms he envisions would undoubtedly make our world more democratic and just.'
Thomas Pogge, Yale University

'In a world beset by financial crisis, nuclear proliferation and climate change, our capacity for international co-operation and solidarity has rarely seemed so inadequate, or the need for them more urgent. In this book, David Held provides a powerful and persuasive analysis of this paradox of our times, and how cosmopolitan principles offer a way to overcome it.'
Andrew Gamble, Cambridge University