European inventory of
societal values of culture

Lamont & Aksartova - Ordinary Cosmopolitanisms

Lamont M. and Aksartova S. (2002) Ordinary Cosmopolitanisms: Strategies for bridging racial boundaries among working-class men. Theory, Culture and Society, 19 (4): 1–25.

In contrast to most literature on cosmopolitanism, which focuses on its elite forms, this article analyzes how ordinary people bridge racial boundaries in everyday life. It is based on interviews with 150 non-college-educated white and black workers in the United States and white and North African workers in France. The comparison of the four groups shows how differences in cultural repertoires across national context and structural location shape distinct anti-racist rhetorics. Market-based arguments are salient among American workers, while arguments based on solidarity and egalitarianism are used by French, but not by American, workers. Minority workers in both countries employ a more extensive toolkit of anti-racist rhetoric as compared to whites. The interviewed men privilege evidence grounded in everyday experience, and their claims of human equality are articulated in terms of universal human nature and, in the case of blacks and North Africans, universal morality. Workers' conceptual frameworks have little in common with multiculturalism that occupies a central place in the literature on cosmopolitanism. We argue that for the discussion and practice of cosmopolitanism to move forward we should shift our attention to the study of multiple ordinary cosmopolitanisms.

Lamont & Aksartova “Ordinary Cosmopolitanisms: Strategies for bridging racial boundaries among working-class men”