Multicultural cosmopolitanism remarks on the idea of universal history

From the time of our first communication, some thirty years ago, Fred Dallmayr and I have never ceased to disagree about key foundational issues in social and political theory. Our disagreements are not haphazard but consistent; they might be characterized roughly as stemming from the differences between his brand of hermeneutics and my brand of critical theory, or between his sources of inspiration in Hegel and Heidegger and my own in Kant and Habermas. But they are also “reasonable disagreements” that allow for considerable “overlapping consensus” on both methodological and substantive issues. Thus we overlapped sufficiently on questions concerning the role of interpretive understanding in social inquiry to co-edit an anthology on that topic very early on.1 And I want to suggest here that we now overlap sufficiently on the idea of multicultural cosmopolitanism to make our ongoing conversation continually fruitful despite the persistent differences in our “comprehensive doctrines.” Those differences do entail, however, that we follow widely diverging paths before arriving in the same region of the political-theoretical world. And they likely also mean that we are relying on different maps of this region and of the roads leading beyond it as well. But I shall confine my remarks here to charting an alternative route to the sort of global and plural democracy that Dallmayr has set out in a series of recent works.2 It is a route that leads from Kant’s idea for a universal history from a cosmopolitan point of view, through Habermas’s conceptions of social evolution and a postnational constellation, to a sketch of multicultural cosmopolitanism that bears strong affinities to Dallmayr’s vision of “our world.” I Though the genre of universal history to which Kant gave exemplary expression was deeply implicated in colonial domination and exploitation, it cannot simply be discarded in favor of genealogical or other broadly deconstructive modes of historical..
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