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Who are the cosmopolitans?

A cosmopolitan is a person who considers the whole world, not a separate isolated territory (state, region), to be his or her homeland. He does not recognise national identity, political, cultural or other borders at all or at least their great influence. The term itself comes from the ancient Greek words “kosmos” — world, and “politeis” — citizen. That is, it literally translates as a citizen or a person of peace.

A history of cosmopolitanism

In the European philosophical tradition, the first to call themselves “citizens of the world” were the Greek Cynics, namely the most prominent representative of this movement, Diogenes of Sinope. Known for his radical ideas and egregious lifestyle, he denied the values and conventions of contemporary Greek society, including marriage, family and fatherland. It was he who first introduced the term “cosmopolitan” into political philosophy.

The colonisation of the Mediterranean, Asia Minor and the Caucasus by the ancient Greeks and the emergence of the first major empires gave a great impetus to the development of cosmopolitan ideas. The state of Alexander the Great, the Persian and Roman empires united peoples with completely different cultures under their rule for the first time. And cities such as Alexandria, Persepolis and Rome became real world megacities.

The world religions that replaced pagan beliefs also contributed to the growth of cosmopolitanism. Buddhism, Christianity and Islam spread their influence far beyond the countries in which they originated, pushing ethnic and linguistic differences into the background. In the Middle Ages, it was religion that was one of the main unifying factors.

Cosmopolitanism was also facilitated by the fragmentation of European states into separate feuding principalities, which hindered the growth of national consciousness. The instability of state borders and weak central authority allowed people to move relatively freely between countries.

Great geographical discoveries, the development of natural sciences, trade and transport in the Modern Age contributed to closer contact between peoples and the development of cosmopolitan ideas. Many European philosophers and cultural figures of that time, such as Guillaume Postel, Erasmus of Rotterdam, Johann Goethe, Friedrich Schiller called themselves cosmopolitans. Journals with appropriate titles were published in England, France, and the Netherlands, which at that time had become the largest empires with overseas territories.

The first ideas of uniting all nations into a world state appeared. In his work “Towards Perpetual Peace”, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant put forward the idea of creating a world confederation, in which countries, preserving their sovereignty, would jointly solve international issues. Later, Marx and his followers expressed similar ideas, proclaiming the gradual liberation of peoples from the “oppression of the bourgeoisie” and the creation of a unified socialist society.

In the twentieth century, the idea of a world government for the first time received a concrete embodiment — first in the form of the League of Nations, and after the devastating Second World War in the format of the UN and other international organizations (WTO, IMF, etc.). These political and economic formations began to solve many international issues, although, of course, this did not eliminate interethnic contradictions.

In the late XX-early XXI centuries, the rapid growth of communication technologies and especially the emergence of the global information network gave cosmopolitanism a new impetus for development. Cosmopolitanism has shifted to the virtual plane. The Internet has come to be regarded as an environment free of geographical and political conventions, in which national identity and citizenship are irrelevant. The expansion of Western (primarily American) mass culture into all regions of the planet has also played its role.

Who is a man of peace?

It is impossible to answer this question unambiguously. The main reason is that cosmopolitanism itself is not a single doctrine with clearly defined principles. For example, the French politician and writer Eugène Lanty, one of the founders of the “World Extra-National Association” (SAT), promoted the idea of absolute rejection of national sovereignty of countries in favor of the creation of a single world government, and for intercultural communication he proposed to use a new artificial language — Esperanto.

On the other hand, there are more moderate representatives of cosmopolitanism, such as French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, German sociologist Ulrich Beck and others. They recognise the right of peoples to national sovereignty and cultural isolation. But at the same time, they believe that borders should be as transparent and open to all people as possible.

The following basic principles peculiar to the worldview of a cosmopolitan can be distinguished:

  • Denial of nation-state sovereignty as the only possible organization of human society;

  • Rejection of national and ethnic self-identification in favor of perceiving oneself as a representative of all humanity, a “citizen of the world”;

  • Denial of the idea of “specialness” and superiority of individual peoples and nations;

  • Prioritizing universal values over national values;

  • Priority of supranational institutions and international law over national ones;

  • Rejection of violent methods of resolving interethnic conflicts in favor of diplomatic ones.

The term “cosmopolitan” is similar to the term “stateless person”, which in international law refers to a person without any citizenship or nationality. The difference is that in the first case we are talking about a person’s worldview, and in the second case — his civil-political status. A stateless person does not always become such of his own volition. In other words, he may or may not be a cosmopolitan, and vice versa.

A critique of cosmopolitanism

From the very beginning of its existence, the cosmopolitan worldview has met with strong opposition from the public and the authorities. The main claim “incriminated” to cosmopolitans is their alleged indifference and even contempt for their homeland and/or people. Often “citizens of the world” were directly accused of deliberately harming the national interests of the state and even of working for foreign intelligence services.

There is a more valid (but not uncontroversial) critique of cosmopolitanism. It consists in the following theses:

  • The creation of a “world state” is in principle unattainable due to the contradictions between peoples. And even in existing international organizations, such as the UN, WTO, etc., the leading countries pursue primarily their own interests and dictate terms to the others;

  • Cosmopolitanism leads not to the mutual development of peoples through cultural exchange, but to the degradation of their national cultures, the achievements of which are often “denigrated” and used for commercial and political purposes, or even denied and forgotten as “obsolete”;

  • Cosmopolitanism leads to unequal distribution of resources between countries. States with powerful economies pull resources from less developed countries under the guise of cooperation.

In response to this criticism, proponents of cosmopolitanism put forward their counterarguments:

  • The cosmopolitan does not despise his homeland or disregard its interests — he just does not put it above others, considering it as a part of the whole world community;

  • Cosmopolitanism does not impose any common culture on representatives of specific peoples and nations to the detriment of traditional culture. If a person rejects national traditions and values, it is his free and conscious choice;

  • The bias in international organizations in favor of the interests of the leading powers is not a consequence of cosmopolitanism, but of an outdated nation-state model. It is necessary to improve the mechanisms of international organisations rather than justify their shortcomings by “the utopianism of cosmopolitan ideas”.

In defense and promotion of their ideas, cosmopolitanism create communities and social organizations. The largest of these is the World Service Authority (WSA), founded in 1953 by former actor and U.S. Air Force pilot Harry Davis. This non-profit organization issues “passports of world citizens”, birth certificates and some other documents for cosmopolitans.

How do you become a cosmopolitan?

Today, a cosmopolitan is defined as a person who:

  • Supports universal values — equality of people, freedom of speech and thought, openness, reliability of information, etc.

  • Is able to freely cross political borders between countries;

  • Open to different cultures, religions and philosophical systems;

  • Self-realization is in the interests of the world, not of a single country.

Such people are often citizens of several countries at once or have no citizenship at all, own property and businesses in different countries, can work remotely from anywhere in the world, and have bank accounts in national and international banks. The combination of these qualities makes them as independent as possible from the politics of specific countries.

You can become a full-fledged cosmopolitan by obtaining citizenship or residency in a country whose passport allows you to enter most countries of the world without a visa. In 2023, the passports of Japan and Singapore offer the greatest opportunities in this respect. They provide visa-free entry to 192 countries around the world. Passports of Germany, South Korea, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, etc. are slightly lower on the freedom of movement index.

There are several ways for a foreigner to obtain citizenship of such countries:

  • By right of blood — that is, by taking advantage of repatriation programmes based on ethnicity or nationality;

  • By marrying a citizen of the country — this can be either a full-fledged or a sham marriage;

  • Through naturalization, obtaining citizenship by fulfilling certain conditions such as knowledge of the language, residence in the territory of the state for a certain period of time, no criminal record, knowledge of the local culture, etc.

One of the easiest and fastest ways to become a cosmopolitan is to obtain citizenship in exchange for investment in the economy of the state. Such investment programmes are offered by many European countries, Canada, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, etc. They are especially common in small island states such as Malta, Caribbean countries (St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda).

Contributing to the country’s economy under such programmes allows obtaining a second citizenship much faster than under naturalization. In the Caribbean countries, the average period of obtaining citizenship is 3-6 months with a contribution of $220000 or more. In Malta it is possible to obtain a passport in 1-3 years after paying €690000 to the state budget.

You do not have to become a citizen of another country — you can obtain a resident status with a residence permit or a permanent residence permit. This status gives almost the same rights as a passport, except for the ability to participate in elections, hold public office or travel without visas. Residents can open a business, study at a university, and travel to visa-free countries. Such status can be obtained by making a certain contribution to the state budget under an investment programme.

What does a passport give you as a global citizen?

A World Citizen Passport is an identity card issued by the World Government of World Citizens (WSA). This document contains personal data about the holder such as full name, ID card, driver’s licence or government passport number, date of birth, etc. In most countries it is not recognised as an official document and does not entitle to visa-free entry, except for 5 countries: Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Mauritania, Tanzania, Zambia, Togo and Zambia.

Nevertheless, the “passport of a global citizen” also provides some opportunities:

  • Discounts at some museums around the world, provided that visits for foreigners are more expensive than for locals;

  • Use as collateral for vehicle hire — this is usually because locals are rarely aware of the existence of such a document and accept it as universal;

  • Identification in front of law enforcement officials or for money transfers requiring only first and last name verification.

There are known cases when the owners used this passport to enter 180 countries of the world. This is most likely due to the fact that border and customs officials were not aware of the status of such a passport and mistook it for an official document.

You can get a passport of a world citizen by downloading an application form from the official WSA website and filling it out.

A passport of a world citizen only allows you to feel cosmopolitan, to join this ideology. But its legal possibilities are minimal, it does not give real freedom of movement, ownership of business, assets, real estate in the vast majority of countries.

Obtaining a second citizenship for investment significantly expands the opportunities of a modern person in terms of traveling around the world, studying and doing business abroad, and optimizing taxes. Imperial & Legal offers second passport application services in the Caribbean, Malta, the Eurozone and the UK. Our experts will help you choose the most suitable programme, prepare the necessary documents and submit them together with the application to the relevant department of the chosen country. In addition, our client support includes:

Obtaining a second citizenship is an important decision in a person’s life, so it should be taken carefully and cautiously. Please consult our experts and they will answer all your questions.

Frequent questions about cosmopolitanism

Cosmopolitanism and patriotism are incompatible?

Logically, cosmopolitanism and patriotism do not necessarily contradict each other — everything depends on the interpretation of these concepts. One can love one’s homeland, but still be interested in other countries and their cultures, travel freely around the world, etc. If “patriotism” means nationalism, then cosmopolitanism is ideologically incompatible with it.

Are cosmopolitans being persecuted today?

UN international human rights law prohibits discrimination and persecution of people on ideological grounds. But the national laws of some states (primarily authoritarian ones) indirectly restrict or completely prohibit the expression of cosmopolitan ideas and introduce administrative and criminal penalties.

Which countries' passports offer the least opportunity?

The weakest passport today is considered to be the passport of Afghanistan — it can be used to visit only 27 countries without a visa. The second and third place from the end goes to the passports of Iraq (29 countries) and Syria (30 countries). Citizenships of North Korea, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, Nepal, Bangladesh and Kosovo also offer few opportunities.

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