European inventory of
societal values of culture

Skrbis & Woodward - The Ambivalence of Ordinary Cosmopolitanism

Skrbis, Z. & Woodward, I. (2007) The Ambivalence of Ordinary Cosmopolitanism: Investigating the Limits of Cosmopolitan Openness. The Sociological Review, 55(4): 730-747.

Despite diverse understandings of cosmopolitanism, most authors agree that cosmopolitans espouse a broadly defined disposition of ‘openness’ toward others, people, things and experiences whose origin is non-local. It is argued that such an attitude is expressed by an emotional and ethical commitment towards universalism, selflessness, worldliness and communitarianism, and that such values should be identifiable in the practices, attitudes and identifications of individuals. By using data generated through qualitative focus group research, this paper extends the development of Lamont and Aksartova's (2002) category of ‘ordinary cosmopolitanism’. The participants in this study saw themselves as beneficiaries of an increasingly interconnected world, and they generally expressed cosmopolitan sentiments by referring to easily accepted opportunities associated with globalisation (eg. travel, cuisine, music) rather than the more difficult aspects of openness such as showing hospitality to strangers, or accepting human interest ahead of perceived national interests. Their positive views were counterbalanced, however, by sentiments of ‘dilution of national culture’ and ‘culture loss’. The authors argue that cosmopolitanism is a set of structurally grounded, discursive resources available to social actors which is variably deployed to deal with issues like cultural diversity, the global, and otherness. Ironically these discourses, which are the basis of the everyday accounts we describe, mirror academic debates on globalisation, suggesting the immersion of theorists in these discursive webs of meaning that structure responses to things global.

Skrbis & Woodward, I “The Ambivalence of Ordinary Cosmopolitanism: Investigating the Limits of Cosmopolitan Openness”