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Cosmopolitan risk communities


Re-mapping inequality and power in an age of climate change : the emergence of "cosmopolitan" risk communities

Ulrich Beck

Ulrich Beck - Collège d'études mondiales
The aim of this chair is to utilise the idea of ‘methodological cosmopolitanism’ to design a sociological framework for the understanding of climate change. Climate change has been investigated chiefly from the vantage point of the natural sciences and economics (exceptions include Anthony Giddens and John Urry). My concern is to explore the sociological dimension of climate change from two mutually complementary angles:

First, to what extent will climate change be a contributory factor in the global transformation of power and inequality thus potentially leading to future violent conflicts? And secondly, how far will climate change simultaneously pave the way for new ‘cosmopolitan’ risk communities between people otherwise far removed from each other geographically as well as socially?
The answer to such questions presupposes a paradigm change from dominant ‘methodological nationalism’ – operating with an unquestioned assumption of a neat correspondence between nation, territory, society and culture – to ‘methodological cosmopolitanism’. To realise this shift, the project will:

  • develop a ‘cosmopolitan database’ that enables us and others to generate a dynamic map of the landscapes of climate change actors, the nature and form of their activities and (self) interpretations, as well as their various global-local interlinks as an antidote to ‘methodological nationalism’;
  • undertake corresponding empirical investigations to be carried out in global cities like (Paris, London, Copenhagen, Osaka, Seoul and Shanghai). In each site we will examine the social staging of global risk (case one: ‘world cinema’), the evolution of transnational inequality and power-relations (case two: ‘climate summits’), and the formation and dynamics of ‘cosmopolitan’ climate communities (case three); and,
  • examine the ways in which climate change is contributing to the dissolution of four modern dualisms: the national construction of ‘us and others’ (sociology), nature – society (ontology), global – local (geography) and present – future (epistemology).

Besides substantial academic publications and a revolutionary methodological innovation (‘cosmopolitan database’) my aim is to write ultimately a multi-language 50-page ‘Greening of Societies’ report, with the intended audience of the general public, to put the sociological perspective on the agenda.


  • a research seminar with Ph.D candidates and post-doctoral fellows
  • selection of a post-doctoral fellow attached to the chair.
  • organization of an international conference
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