Worlds Ahead?: On the Dialectics of Cosmopolitanism and Postcapitalism Dissertation

(2017). Worlds Ahead?: On the Dialectics of Cosmopolitanism and Postcapitalism . 10.25148/etd.FIDC001778

thesis or dissertation chair


  • Sculos, Bryant William


  • This dissertation argues that the major theories of global justice (specifically within the cosmopolitan tradition) have missed an important aspect of capitalism in their attempts to deal with the most pernicious effects of the global economic system. This is not merely a left critique of cosmopolitanism (though it is certainly that as well), but its fundamental contribution is that it applies the insights of Frankfurt School Critical Theorist Theodor Adorno’s negative dialectics to offer an internal critique of cosmopolitanism. As it stands, much of the global justice and cosmopolitanism literature takes global capitalism as an unsurpassable and a foundationally unproblematic system, often ignoring completely the relationship between the psycho-socially conditioned ideological aspects of capitalism and the horizon of achievable politics and social development. Using the philosophies and social theories of Adorno and Erich Fromm, I argue that there is a crucial psycho-social dimension to capitalism, or capitalistic mentality—represented in and functionally reproduced by transnational capitalism—that undermines the political aspirations of normative theories of cosmopolitanism, on their own terms.

    The project concludes with an exploration of Marxist, neo-Marxist, and post-Marxist theories as a potential source of alternatives to address the flaws within cosmopolitanism with respect to its general acceptance and under-theorizing of capitalism. The conclusion reached here is that even these radical approaches fail to take into account the near-pervasive influence of capitalism on the minds of radicals and activists working for progressive change or simply reject the potentials contained in existing avenues for global political and economic change (something which the cosmopolitan theories explored in earlier chapters do not do). Based again on the work of Adorno and Fromm, this dissertation argues that the best path forward, practically and theoretically, is by engaging cosmopolitanism and neo-/post-Marxism productively around this concept of the capitalistic mentality, building towards a praxeological theory of postcapitalist cosmopolitanism framed by a negative dialectical resuscitation of the concepts of class struggle and unlimited democracy. This postcapitalist cosmopolitanism emphasizes non-exploitative economic and political relations, cooperation, compassion, sustainability, and a participatory-democratic civic culture.

publication date

  • February 10, 2017


  • Contemporary Political Theory
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Critical Theory
  • Democratic Theory
  • Global Justice
  • International Political Theory
  • International Relations Theory
  • Marxism
  • Political Economy
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Social Psychology

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)