The Emptiness of Cosmopolitanism: Cosmopolitan Critical Theory through the imagination of an other

Michael Murphy

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis will argue that a synthesis of the work of Gerard Delanty, Walter Mignolo, and Watsuji Tetsurō can provide an account of Critical cosmopolitanism capable of addressing its identified deficiencies. The thesis will develop as follows. First, the thesis introduces a double critique of Delanty’s and Mignolo’s work through which to offer a conceptual scaffold through which to develop the thesis. The outcome of the critique is a conceptual persona consisting of Mignolo’s principle of aesthesis and Delanty’s relational social ontology. The second outcome is Mignolo’s account of relative universal. The next chapter introduces the work of Watsuji Tetsurō and draws attention to his intellectual indebtedness to Confucius and Buddhist thought. It also sets out an argument for understanding his work as part of the decolonial project. To address the epistemological problems inherent to cosmopolitanism the next stage introduces a reading of Watsuji’s concept of emptiness as an epistemic principle rather than an ontological principle. Here emptiness operates as a deconstructive heuristic device. The next stage comes in two parts. The first part begins a hermeneutical descent by interrogating Mignolo’s relative universal and Watsuji’s concept of fūdo reading of emptiness. The outcome of this chapter is a rotation of the cosmopolitan focus of analysis away from vertical accounts of tradition towards a methodological approach that focuses on the meeting place of the horizontal axe, everyday experience, with tradition. The second part of this stage continues the hermeneutical descent, but then moves onto ideological critique. This will be carried out by developing the proposed conceptual persona through an engagement with Watsuji’s concept of aidagara and an extrapolation from emptiness of negative and positive social critique. The outcome of this chapter bridges the gap between the individual and society to provide an account of the creativity of the social imaginary which is outside of the dominant mode and to provide a critique of social conventions.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Gallagher, Julia, Supervisor
  • Rumford, Christopher, Supervisor
Award date1 Sept 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 4 Jul 2018


  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Cosmopolitan imagination
  • globalisation
  • Critical Theory
  • decolonialism
  • Social Theory

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