The recent surge in nationalism and tribalism brings renewed salience to questions of identity within and across borders. Notably, it exposes the tension between bounded social identities, on the one hand, and universalist yearnings and commitments, on the other. Liberal democracy—and the ostensible universalism on which it is based—is struggling to resolve this tension. I turn instead to the cosmopolitan tradition. I argue that cosmopolitanism—and a genuinely cosmopolitan (i.e., unbounded) social identity, in particular—represents not just an extension of scope from the national to the global, but a qualitative shift that permeates all identities, and serves to fundamentally protect and liberate particularist attachments from their otherwise inherent instabilities and contradictions. On this view, the promise of cosmopolitanism does not rest exclusively in what it can deliver beyond our borders, but also in its potential to fundamentally recast social identities within boundaries, resolving crises of identity at all levels of society.
Shahrzad Sabet's research spans politics, economics, psychology, and philosophy. She is a Fellow at the University of Maryland’s Bahá’í Chair for World Peace Program. Previously, she was a Senior Research Fellow at Princeton University’s Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance and a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard, where she recently received her PhD in Government. Her work has been featured in outlets such as The Washington Post and The New York Times.