Cosmopolitan Criticism and Postcolonial Literature by R. Spencer

By R. Spencer

Through readings of novels via J.M. Coetzee, Timothy Mo and Salman Rushdie and the later poetry of W.B. Yeats, this e-book finds how postcolonial writing can motivate the enlarged feel of ethical and political accountability had to supplant ongoing types of imperial violence with cosmopolitan associations, relationships and methods of pondering.

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There persists an offensive asymmetry between, on the one hand, the extraterritorial elites and corporations that seek to detach themselves from legal and political constraints and, on the other, the exploitable mass of labour divided up, as ever, into confined spaces. ‘If the new exterritoriality of the elite feels like intoxicating freedom’, in the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman’s words, ‘the territoriality of the rest feels less like home ground, and ever more like prison – all the more humiliating for the obtrusive sight of the others’ freedom to move’ (1999, 18).

For Gowan this naive vision has not replaced the power politics of the United States and its allies. In Leo Panitch’s words, those who focus on global trade at the expense of less seemly realities like exploitation and war ‘can’t see the bombs for the bananas’ (2000, 20). Similarly, the existing institutions of global governance are patchy at best. At worst they are disguised manifestations of US power. The Security Council of the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are all ostensibly cosmopolitan bodies that in practice, as the renegade former World Bank economist Joseph Stiglitz has remarked, are ‘dominated not just by the wealthiest industrial countries but by commercial and financial interests in those countries’ (2002, 18).

They thus make it less likely that we will sell cosmopolitanism short by confusing it with neo-liberal globalisation. On the other hand, both their often intemperate insistence that capitalism and the nation state must be tackled before we are distracted by talk of the cosmopolitan condition and their brusque dismissal of cosmopolitan proposals and mission statements as forms of naive or furtive collusion with the status quo have potentially deleterious consequences. As Daniele Archibugi has noted, Brennan leaves himself open to the charge of devoting ‘far more space to critical analysis of the present situation than to concrete proposals for a way out of it’ (2003b, 265).

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