There has been a resurgence of interest in cosmopolitanism in contemporary political theory, based upon the hopeful premise that it heralds an ameliorative response to the malignity of sovereignty's lack and the treacherous violence of sovereignty's excess. The promise of cosmopolitanism inheres in the claim that state sovereignty is and should be supplemented by an international system backed by the legitimacy of international law, grounded in the sovereignty of human rights. Drawing upon Foucault and Agamben, my argument in this essay is that the laudable endeavour of liberal cosmopolitans is flawed in two ways: first, cosmopolitanism cannot escape sovereign violence, because it cannot escape sovereignty; and second, cosmopolitans misconstrue the composition of the very sovereignty they aim to escape. This means that cosmopolitan theorists are unable to identify cosmopolitan practices of sovereignty that also entail forms of violence: cosmopolitan exception. Cosmopolitan exception denotes violent sovereign practices that cannot be differentiated from the protection of rights.
- human rights