by Martha C. Nussbaum ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 27, 1996
Nationalism or internationalism? That is the question debated in this provocative collection of essays by some of today's most subtle minds. In a 1994 Boston Review essay, ""Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism,"" Nussbaum (Poetic Justice, 1995, etc.) powerfully argued against patriotism as well as its darker incarnations (such as ethnocentrism), in favor of a universalist allegiance ""to the worldwide community of human beings."" While not particularly new in its philosophical underpinnings, this essay created an enormous controversy in academia. Now, in a work featuring such notable scholars and thinkers as Nathan Glazer, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Hilary Putnam, and Michael Walzer, Nussbaum and editor Cohen (who is the editor of the Boston Review) have brought together 15 of the most notable and considered responses. As Europe and North America seem to be moving slowly toward confederation--and much of the Third World toward disintegration--the issues these essays raise are of vital importance. Philosophically, the conflict between patriotism and cosmopolitanism goes straight to the heart of what it means to be human. Are we political animals, forged by the particularities of our lives? Or do we share a larger commonality, some irreducible essence that is true everywhere and always? Predictably, most of the authors in this collection seem to come down somewhere near the middle, emphasizing, with only slightly different weightings, the importance of both the national and the cosmopolitan. Almost without exception, their critiques are thoughtful, revealing, and perfectly nuanced. Nussbaum concludes the book by answering and critiquing the previous pieces. Retreating a little from her previous position, she does acknowledge that cosmopolitanism is an ethical ideal that can only be aspired to through the ""local."" Rarely does one come across a forum where all the facets of an important idea are so thoroughly debated. This is the give-and-take of intellectual debate at its finest.
Pub Date: Aug. 27, 1996
Page Count: 160
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996
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