Monday, October 23, 2006

Stoic Cosmopolitanism. . .

Some excerpts from Julia Kristeva's Strangers to Ourselves:

A challenge to the very principle of human association is what is involved in cosmopolitan utopia: the rules governing exchanges with the other having been abolished (no more State, no more family, no sexual difference), is it possible to live without constraints–without limits, without borders–other than individual demands? Two possibilities are then open: either absolute cyncism based on individual pleasure, or the elitism of lucid, self-controlled beings, of wise men who manage to be reconciled with the insane.

(pp. 60-61)


Stoic cosmopolitanism adumbrates a new religion in which Greek individualism, the introspection of Egyptian piety, the banquets of Syrian communities, and Jewish morality merge together. . . From that moment the question arises as to whether cosmopolitanism is anything but a religious reality, without ever being capable of becoming a political reality. The question is still valid today. The flaw lies perhaps in the very project: "cosmopolitanism" means that the ideal of the polis, of the political city-state with its rights and its isonomy, is preserved but extended on a world scale, that the entire world finds its place in it. Now, it is possible that the erasing of differences can be effected only in the order of piety. On the other hand, the political order, which governs needs, can only protect its own, entrench disparities, separate disagreements, and, at best, administer the procedures intended to preserve differences.

In contrast with classical and Homeric times, Hellenistic Greece, however, carried out a cosmopolitan policy. In what way? While always distinguishing between those who are foreigners to the polis (that is, Greeks from another political unit) from those who are foreigners to the Greek world (that is, persons differing in race or culture), Greeks of the Hellenistic era acknowledged the community of the former through the birth of international law and living together, and that of the latter through the establishment of vast international or multiracial cities like Alexandria where intellectuals mixed Judaism and Hellenism, translated the Bible into Greek, and later integrated ancient philosophy into Christianism.

(pp. 61-62)

And finally:

More a center for spreading culture than a framework for political integration, the Hellenistic polis disseminated, along with its cosmopolitanism, Greek civilization more than politics. This means that the foreigner was still the citizen's other. But his role in the polis increased; this marked a retreat, specific to Greece at that time, of legal-political features as opposed to what is distinctive of an ideology, a mentality, or a way of life, which also, in increasingly better fashion, define Greekness. Without for that matter wanting to speak of a reduction of the political, let me say that accepting foreigners in the polis led to establishing among the members of a community identifying criteria that transcended politics by putting forward cultural and symbolic factors.

(p. 63)

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posted by Fido the Yak at 4:28 PM.


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