Friday, June 18, 2010

Parekh, Serena. Review of Jason D. Hill, BEYOND BLOOD IDENTITIES. NDPR (June 2010).

Hill, Jason D.  Beyond Blood Identities: Posthumanity in the Twenty-First Century. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2009.

The position argued for in this book -- strong cosmopolitanism -- is one that will be unfamiliar to many readers. Cosmopolitanism itself is an ancient moral and political theory that holds that all human beings should be thought of as belonging to the same human community; we should all see ourselves as "citizens of the world." This view can be traced back to at least the Stoics, and has been popularized in recent years by people like Martha Nussbaum and Anthony Appiah. The form of cosmopolitanism advocated by these philosophers is referred to by Hill as moderate or weak cosmopolitanism because it does not see itself as being incompatible with the local identities that many people hold on to even while believing in cosmopolitan values. For Nussbaum and Appiah, one can identify as a Muslim or a Tutsi and still believe that the relevant moral group of concern is all humanity.

The strong version of cosmopolitanism put forth by Hill in this book, by contrast, does not share this view. For him, all forms of "tribal" identification (i.e., identity based on culture, race, language, ethnicity, nationality, etc.) are entirely without warrant and should not play any role in our moral or political framework. In Hill's view, we need to move beyond these forms of identification in order to achieve the goals of cosmopolitanism. We need to see ourselves and each other first and foremost as individuals, without limiting ourselves to narrow forms of group identification. Since most people are raised to see themselves according to "tribal" identifications -- as an American, a Jew, Chinese, Sicilian, etc -- this position is not intuitively obvious. While I think Hill does a laudable job trying to make this position seem credible and morally desirable, I do not think it is sufficient to overcome the (legitimate) reservations many people will have in giving up cultural, ethnic, or racial identity. Nonetheless, this book is an important contribution to the scholarship on cosmopolitanism and furthers the debate over exactly what form this political and moral philosophy should take. . . .

Read the whole review here:

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