Cosmopolitanism as Biopower: Creating and Targeting Cultural Others

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Author: Abhishek Choudhary, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
Published: May 2016

Citation: Choudhary, A. (2016). Cosmopolitanism as Biopower: Creating and Targeting Cultural Others. IAFOR Journal of Politics, Economics & Law, 3(1).


This paper analyses cosmopolitanism from the lens of biopower. The central argument is that the actual and prospective actions undertaken in the name of upholding cosmopolitan ideals perpetuates biopower. Cosmopolitan ideals here imply the tendency to transcend territorial boundedness. The smokescreen of justice serves to legitimate the narrow self-interest of a few powerful countries. Borrowing the notion of ‘bare life’ and ‘docile bodies’, the paper presents the argument that the selective exclusion of certain social and cultural communities transcends domestic polity. It is no longer the case that a sovereign authority in a domestic polity controls and regulates populations. Though there is no sovereign power at the international level, the hegemonic stature achieved by the liberal capitalist model is seen as analogous. The contemporary drives toward fighting with justifications that are rooted in cosmopolitan ideals clearly exemplify such a construction of an enemy by ‘othering’. Such actions do not always proceed towards a spatially defined target, but are often directed towards a culturally specific racial other. The contemporary drive for cosmopolitan wars allude to such a reduction of constructed others and perpetuation of ideational hegemony. Though organisations like NATO claim to work under the authorisation of Security Council resolutions, the ultimate outcomes clearly demonstrate a hegemonic aspiration. A certain model of governance – US-style liberal democracy in this case – is seen to be more appropriate than the existing model or other alternate models. The paper, through empirical evidence, confirms the hypothesis that cosmopolitanism helps sustain a model based on biopower.


cosmopolitanism, biopower, othering, bare life, docile bodies, hegemony, justice