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Kant's Cosmopolitan Law: World Citizenship for a Global Order

  • Pauline Kleingeld (a1)

In debates over the conditions for a just world order, one hears frequent appeals to Kant's call for states to unite in a federation. Given the force of Kant's arguments and their influence on the shape of such institutions as the League of Nations and the United Nations, this is certainly justified. But an essential part of what Kant saw as necessary for a global legal order is usually neglected. What is overlooked is Kant's emphasis on the status of individuals under what he calls ‘cosmopolitan law’. Cosmopolitan law is concerned not with the interaction between states, but with the status of individuals in their dealings with states of which they are not citizens. Moreover, it is concerned with the status of individuals as human beings, rather than as citizens of states. In Kant's political theory, cosmopolitan law (Weltbürgerrecht) is the third category of public law, in addition to constitutional law and international law. Its core is what Kant calls a right to hospitality. He argues that states and individuals have the right to attempt to establish relations with other states and their citizens, but not a right to enter foreign territory. States have the right to refuse visitors, but not violently, and not if it leads to their destruction. This implies an obligation to refrain from imperialist intrusions and to provide safe haven for refugees.

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Howard Williams , International Relations and the Limits of Political Theory (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996)

Thomas W. Pogge , ‘Cosmopolitanism and sovereignty’, Ethics, 103 (1992), 4875.

Guy S. Goodwin-Gill , The Refugee in International Law, 2nd edn. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996).

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Kantian Review
  • ISSN: 1369-4154
  • EISSN: 2044-2394
  • URL: /core/journals/kantian-review
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