A cosmopolitan approach to the explanation of social change: social mechanisms, processes, modernity

Delanty, Gerard (2012) A cosmopolitan approach to the explanation of social change: social mechanisms, processes, modernity. Sociological Review, 60 (2). pp. 333-354. ISSN 0038-0261

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In recent years social science has been characterized by a cosmopolitan turn. Of the many questions that arise from this the most important are those that concern the implications for explaining social change. While cosmopolitanism is centrally about social change, much cosmopolitan theory due to its normative orientation lacks a capacity for explanation. The problem of explanation is also a problem that besets all ‘big question’ approaches in social science. In this paper a broad definition of cosmopolitanism is given and elucidated by an outline of its epistemological, ontological and methodological frameworks. Emphasizing the latter two, a relational conception of cosmopolitanism is developed as an alternative to dispositional/agency based and systemic accounts. First I argue that there are four main kinds of cosmopolitan relationships, which together constitute the social ontology of cosmopolitanism. These are the relativization of identity, the positive recognition of the other, the mutual evaluation of cultures, and the creation of a normative world culture. A methodological framework is advanced that distinguishes between the preconditions of cosmopolitanism, its social mechanisms and processes (of which three are specified: generative, transformational and institutionalizing) and trajectories of historical change. The argument is made that cosmopolitan phenomena can be accounted for in terms of this ontological and methodological framework. The advantage of this approach is that it offers cosmopolitan analysis a macro level account of social change that is broadly explanatory and which can also account for both the diachronic and synchronic levels of the emergence of cosmopolitanism as both a counter-factual normative cultural model and as a part of social and political practices and institutional arrangements.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2012 07:50
Last Modified: 04 Nov 2015 09:24
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/39854
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