Communitarianism vs. Cosmopolitanism Essay

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Normative Theories of Politics - Contrasting Cosmopolitan and Communitarian Approaches

When looking at normative theories of politics, the main distinction is between cosmopolitanism and communitarianism. In this essay the term community shall refer to political communities, or more specifically, states. It is important to note that these political communities have been defined territorially, and not necessarily by culture, although this is taken for granted to an extent by communitarianism. Communitarians say that each community is different, and therefore should act accordingly with each other. In other words, state autonomy should be absolute and law and moral standards should be self-determined by the community itself alone.
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The Sharia Law of Iran actually "specifies that the stones thrown should not be so large that the victim dies after a few strikes", yet be big enough to "cause serious injury". It is communitarianism that allows this to be law, while cosmopolitanism often seeks to intervene in cases such as this. Who is to decide which course of action is more correct? ( Unknown, "Woman Stoned to Death" in APS Diplomat Recorder, vol. 55 July 14, 2001)

Cosmopolitanism is most commonly identified with human rights because of this doctrine of a universal moral standard. It is in favour of humanitarian intervention, whereas communitarianism frowns upon intervention of any kind. State autonomy and self-determinism rate above all else. Both of these approaches have their flaws, however on the surface it does seem that a cosmopolitan system favours individual rights. But then, who is to say this is what is most important?

Cosmopolitanism seems more sophisticated in that it allows for the fact that states have basically been determined by territorial boundaries. Indeed, liberal democracy presupposed that "national communities[...] were based on the presupposition that political communities could [...] control their destinies and citizens [...] might act together with a view of [...] the common good". Following from this, one cannot deny that because of the impact of
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