Hospitality, or kant’s critique of cosmopolitanism and human rights

07 Dec 2017

Kant’s theory of international politics and his right of hospitality are commonly associated with expansive projects of securing human rights or cosmopolitan governance beyond state borders. This article shows how this view misunderstands Kant’s criticism of the law of nations ( ius gentium) tradition as handed down into the eighteenth century as well as the logic of his radical alternative, which was designed to explain the conditions of possibility of global peace as a solution to the Hobbesian problem of a war of all against all in the state of nature. I resolve longstanding confusion over the meaning and justification of Kant’s right of “hospitality” by showing how it functions not as a freestanding positive claim demanding enforcement but as a way of ruling out specious justifications for war against those the traditional law of nations permitted one to label “enemies.” This poses important questions for contemporary theories of global justice.