Cosmopolitan right, indigenous peoples, and the risks of cultural interaction

Public Reason 1 (1):27-56 (2009)
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Kant limits cosmopolitan right to a universal right of hospitality, condemning European imperial practices towards indigenous peoples, while allowing a right to visit foreign countries for the purpose of offering to engage in commerce. I argue that attempts by contemporary theorists such as Jeremy Waldron to expand and update Kant’s juridical category of cosmopolitan right would blunt or erase Kant’s own anti-colonial doctrine. Waldron’s use of Kant’s category of cosmopolitan right to criticize contemporary identity politics relies on premises that upset Kant’s balanced right to hospitality. An over-extensive right to visit can invoke “Kantian” principles that Kant himself could not have consistently held, without weakening his condemnation of European settlement. I construct an alternative spirit of cosmopolitan right more favorable to the contemporary claims of indigenous peoples. Kant’s analysis suggests there are circumstances when indigenous peoples may choose whether to engage in extensive cultural interaction, and reasonably refuse the risks of subjecting their claims to debate in democratic politics in a unitary public. Cosmopolitan right accorded respect to peoples; any “domestic” adaptation of cosmopolitan right should respect indigenous peoples as peoples, absent a serious public explanation by a democratic state for why it has now become appropriate to treat indigenous peoples merely as individual citizens.

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Timothy Waligore
Pace University


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