Assembled Togetherness:
New Materialism and the Aporias of Cosmopolitanism

Dennis Mischke
Rühr University Research School

1. Collectivity, Agency, Structure

[1] "Yes we can." Can we? Who or what is this 'we the people(s)' that not only Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign but well-worn documents like the US Constitution and the charter of the United Nations also start with? Can 'we,' as a nation, as members of the United Nations, as humanity, actually speak of 'us' in a plural that is one? Questions about togetherness are usually asked when it comes to issues of globalization and all it entails: migration, technology, homogenization, heterogenization, borders, markets, human rights, but also climate change, resource depletion and global justice. What is this globalization that confronts 'us' with 'ourselves' and what exactly are the consequences of 'our' actions on a global scale? Does, or rather can a cosmopolitan, global civil society exist – a ubiquitous human we of mutually responsible world citizens?

[2] Since the emergence of democratic nation-states 230 years ago, the question about what 'we' can do, about the nature and possibility of (political) participation is more urgent than ever before. Today the question of agency presents itself as the most challenging cluster of problems human togetherness has ever faced. In a recent article on the dramatic possible consequences of non-linear climate change and resource depletion, sociologist John Urry (2010) warned that the "window of opportunity" to avoid the pending chaos beyond a global tipping point is closing rapidly. And while time to act is running out, 'we' find ourselves trapped in the midst of the global identity crisis called transnationalism, an ongoing global reorganization that has turned our once most powerful collective agents – the nation-states – into porous and permeable structures, from which 'wes' leak out, everywhere.

[3] During the last 30 years transnational agents have become increasingly private. Be it in the form of multinational corporations, funds, networks, holdings, non-governmental agencies, etc. – constitutive parts of 'us' – distinct 'interest groups' have started to challenge the nation-state, from inside and outside. These individual agents have forced 'us' into new arrangements, into new structures of global mobility and precarious flexibility. Yet, are the people involved in these new arrangements real agents? Have 'we' not been told over and over again that there are never simply individuals that are to blame, but rather always their structural 'circumstances' and practical constraints etc.? It's never the individual banker, manager, politician, but rather always structures like the market, the stockholders, the financial crisis, the herd behavior of competition, or simply, globalization!

[4] But globalization, as a concept, seems to embody the very absence of structure. According to Jürgen Habermas, the global incorporates "a new opacity" (Habermas, 1982), and following John Urry, globalization is a system that "combine[s] in curious and unexpected ways both chaos and order" at the same time (Urry, 2003, 14). The crucial question is thus: how do we (re)conceptualize the structure/agency relation and in consequence also questions of responsibility, solidarity and ethics in a world marked by an unprecedented degree of non-linear interconnectivity? In short: how do we (re)think togetherness on a global scale?

[5] In cultural studies and the social sciences, the notion of structure has always been connected with the logic of stability, systematicity, order and linear causality (Venn, 2006). Therefore, many scholars doing research in the (social) sciences, in media studies and cultural theory have turned their attention to the non-linear, to complexity, social and cultural mobility, volatile existences, network societies and cultural hybridity. In the course of these developments a concept that has witnessed a rising popularity is the one of assemblages. Coined by Deleuze and Guattari, the term has repeatedly been invoked to describe novel forms of convocation and collaboration but also of disjunction and (social and cultural) apartheid (DeLanda, 1997, 2002, 2006; Rabinow, 2003; Ong & Collier, 2004; Hayles, 2006; Sassen, 2006). In this paper I want to pick up on this work in an attempt to connect two discourses in which the question of togetherness is pivotal and in which the concept of assemblages can be put to work: the discourse on cosmopolitanism and the discourse on new materialism. This connection is overdue given that despite the plethora of publications on world citizenship the material side of cosmopolitanism has thus far hardly been theorized. This is all the more surprising if one bears in mind that the term 'cosmopolitan' implies the combination of a natural order and a cultural one: the cosmos and the polis.

[6] I shall start with a brief history of cosmopolitanism and continue to excavate three theoretical dilemmas that have troubled cosmopolitan thinkers since the inception of the term. Thereafter, I will indicate how a materialist perspective can help to reconfigure and repose these problems. I will transfer the explanatory potential of assemblage theory as developed by Manuel DeLanda (2006) to problems associated with theories of cosmopolitanism. In so doing, I will try to conceptualize cosmopolitanism as assembled togetherness, as a form of coerced global co-existence that vehemently shapes global ways of life on the micro as much as on the macro level. With the deployment of assemblage theory I want to pay heed to the current paradoxical situation that simultaneously creates and challenges a global 'we.' 'We' are necessarily cosmopolitans today, not least because the last 30 years of neoliberal governance and the Washington Consensus have, willy-nilly, cosmopolitanized 'our' global and local lifeworlds to an unprecedented degree. In this very material sense, I will argue, we are already deeply entangled in a global form of assembled "cosmopolitanization" (Beck, 2006) with all of the terrible ambiguities and dangers this situation implies. What we need to achieve instead – and I can only sketch this demand as a sort of methodological speculation here – is to turn this assembled cosmopolitanization into a form of assembled togetherness that doesn't undermine the idea of a unifying global responsibility. Both cosmopolitanism and assemblage are promising but elusive concepts that pose dangers of misapplication and ambiguity, not the least of which has recently been named in Timothy Brennan's critique of Hardt and Negri's Empire: "Even if one wanted to defend an argument-by-amalgam for its power to create novel constellations, one would have to recognize the distinct risk of devising a false assemblage" (Brennan, 2006, 198).

2. Cosmopolitanism, Universalism and Alterity

[7] What is cosmopolitanism? In a nutshell, cosmopolitanism can be defined as a general, utopian tradition of thought that ascribes all human beings to a common, universal community, a 'we', more fundamental than the particular states or other parts of the worlds in which individuals are socialized. As early as 350 B.C., the Cynic philosopher Diogenes of Sinope began using the term to describe his condition. When asked where he came from, he famously announced to be "a citizen of the world" – a cosmopolite. After Diogenes, cosmopolitanism was carried on by his disciple Crates. Crates's disciple Zeno in turn transplanted cosmopolitan ideas to Stoicism. After antiquity, it was first and foremost Immanuel Kant who explored the 'conditions of possibility' of world citizenship and developed the premise that only a peaceful federation of states could guarantee each human being a universal right of hospitality. In recent times the concept of the cosmopolite has regained renewed attention in the context of cultural mobility, Postcolonialism, and Transnationalism. Most importantly, Ulf Hannerz (1996), Ulrich Beck (2006), Anthony Appiah (2006), Seyla Benhabib (2006) and Timothy Brennan (1997, 2006) began to scrutinize the post- or transnational constellation in cosmopolitan terms.

[8] In striving to find the basis for a common humanity, however, many conceptualizations of world citizenship conjured aporetic problems and unintended consequences. On a political scale, for example, it was the universality of cosmopolitan norms that created, according to Seyla Benhabib, a vast "paradox of legitimacy" (2006, 32). As she has argued, the "dual paradoxical structure" of liberalism and democracy or the dilemma that "democracies cannot choose the boundaries of their own membership democratically" (35) ultimately engenders the difficult problem of inclusion and exclusion. The question of hospitality in particular seems to be the core dilemma of cosmopolitanism, which paradoxically necessitates the development of "an unconditional hospitality, offered a priori to every other, to all newcomers, whoever they may be" (Derrida, 2002, 22) while maintaining one's own integrity and identity. This paradox, the need for a closure in order to enable an unconditional openness (towards any possible other) marks the aporetic necessity and the systemic impossibility of cosmopolitanism. Scholars thinking about cosmopolitanism have rendered this basic aporia of universalism in many different ways. For the sake of my argument here, I want to sketch the nexus of problems that derive from this paradox along three vectors of fallacy that many versions of cosmopolitanism fall pray to. These are:

  1. the idea that cosmopolitanism implies a more developed global culture in contrast to a supposedly "less developed" local one;
  2. the notion that cosmopolitanism is coextensive with a materially more privileged position and is ultimately related to economic growth; and
  3. the notion that the normative dimension of cosmopolitanism should be realized with private acts of philanthropy.

[9] With regard to the first vector: many theories of cosmopolitanism have either openly or implicitly started from the assumption that certain ways of life are more "developed" and therefore more likely to lead towards cosmopolitanism. This tendency can already be witnessed in antiquity. In Stoicism and Cynicism (Diogenes-like), cosmopolitans formed a sort of trans-urban community of people who had decided to withdraw from life in the polis until its citizens, the non-cosmopolites, were 'wise enough' to follow their lead (Sellars, 2007). Also the Kantian Cosmopolitanism of the 18th century operated with a similar self-perception; in his Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime Kant argues, for example, that "once the undisclosed secret of education was unveiled," the "moral feeling" of Enlightenment should be elevated to a spirited responsiveness in the breast of every young cosmopolitan (Kant, 1905, 256). Even though Kant's famous essay "On Perpetual Peace" is undoubtedly a great step towards the formulation of a cosmopolitan law (Weltbürgerrecht), it cannot be neglected that in Kant's vision "the enlightened individuals" who were supposed to bring forth and spread the "moral feeling" of Enlightenment were exclusively descendants of European culture (cf. Malcomson, 1998). Another rather elitist notion of cosmopolitanism reemerged in the 20th century, when the anthropologist Ulf Hannerz argued that cosmopolitans would have to be distinguished from locals and transnationals, for only true world citizens would exhibit the capability to engage with other cultures (Hannerz, 1998). According to Pnina Werber and others, the flaw of this argument was not the distinction between cosmopolitans and locals as such, but rather the fact that "the class dimensions of a theory of global subjectivity have remained mostly unexamined" (Werbner, 1999, 18).

[10] Here we are already confronted with the second aporetic vector of misguided conceptions of cosmopolitanism: while class dimensions are an important issue in this context, I want to further argue that an essentialist distinction between locals and cosmopolitans is indeed the crux of the problem. A key question that has remained unanswered throughout the history of cosmopolitanism, a question also posed by Postcolonial and Subaltern Studies, is: how can the proclaimed and prescribed cosmopolitanism of (post)modern human right regimes formulate claims to universal human fellowship, if cosmopolites are distinguished from locals? And why should non-western cultures be comprehended as having to 'catch up,' technologically, systemically, structurally, materially, etc.?

[11] With regard to the history of the idea of cosmopolitanism as the outcome of economic prosperity and world-wide commerce (i.e., the effect of the interaction of 'highly developed' and 'high class' actors), a remarkable and interesting bifurcation of the concept can be traced back to Kant's rediscovery of the term. Whereas Diogenes of Sinope famously resided in a tub and refused to participate in the political and moral economy of any polis, Kant rejected hermitage as means to create world-citizenship. In his essay "On Perpetual Peace", he held that a cosmopolitan law could only be established on the basis of peaceful world trade and by spreading economic growth. "The historical basis [for a] cosmopolitan unity" according to Kant is provided not by independent actors, not even by states alone but, on the contrary, by well-advanced economic relations (Kant, 1912, 226; see also Cheah, 2006, 488).

[12] It is indeed interesting that Kant's perpetual peace ascribes a greater influence to the international forces of commerce than to international war. According to Wood, this can be regarded as one of the most far-reaching aspects of Kant's popular essay on the question of cosmopolitanism. Nation-states whose economic systems are primarily predicated on a constant readiness for war, Kant argues, will be at a disadvantage in a competition with nations that are benevolent to the well-being of their people (cf. Wood, 1998, 64). Since democratically legitimized republics would ultimately acquire economic power, more and more states would develop towards democracy and liberal freedom. The perpetual peace between states, accordingly, would be an inevitable outcome of the natural process of human history. In this way, nations will search for security not in self-armament but in joining in a peaceful federation (Wood, 65). The teleology of such a "universal cosmopolitan existence" would eventually lead humankind to the "highest purpose of nature" (Kant, 1912, quoted in Malcomson, 1998, 237).

[13] While Kant's trust in the power of peaceful interrelations is certainly heartening, it is hard to dismiss that cosmopolitanism and neoliberalism share intellectual roots. When the neoliberal economic world order was first developed by the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947, the neo-conservative think tank founded by prominent economists and philosophers such as Friedrich von Hayek, Ronald Coase, Milton Friedman and Karl Popper, it was in the belief that individual rights were "progressively undermined by extensions of arbitrary state power" and "by a decline of belief in private property and the competitive market" (Harvey, 2009, 53). Self-regulating markets and private property, they argued, were a warranty for liberty and freedom everywhere in the world. Reverberating with a bourgeois notion of cosmopolitanism, the fetishization of individualism coupled with an excessive believe in private property was seen as the only way to economic development and as a universal value and human right. With the political implementation of Milton Friedman's ideas about freedom and deregulation following the years of the Reagan administration in the 1980s, the Washington Consensus in the 1990s and the breakdown of the Communist bloc, this approach developed into the idea of the End of History (Fukuyama, 1992). Quite in contrast to this elitist and managerial version of cosmopolitanism today, theorists such as James Clifford, Homi Bhabha and Arjun Appadurai have vehemently argued for so called "discrepant" or "vernacular" forms of cosmopolitanism of global working migrants. They believe that a widespread "cosmopolitanism from below" is now more likely than ever (Clifford, 1993; Bhabha, 2007).

[14] As far as the third aporetic vector, cosmopolitan philanthropy, is concerned: whereas Diogenes of Sinope had reportedly uttered a pronounced contempt for non-cosmopolites and showed no sense of responsibility to any polis at all, Kant re-imagined cosmopolitanism in terms of an enlightened humanism and as a general law of hospitality (Kant [1795], 1972). In a way, the achievements of the welfare state as well as large supra-national forms of governance and economic collaboration such as the European Union can be seen as a realization of the Kantian vision of cosmopolitanism. From a global and post-colonial perspective, however, the protectionism of the EU as well as the huge financial apartheid to which it contributes, especially with regard to the so-called "Third World," are clearly not philanthropic. One should not forget that the Maastricht Accord of 1992 was more than anything a neo-liberal construction of free trade within the EU (Harvey, 2009, 83) and that the opening of borders within the EU has coincided with an almost hermetic closure of the outer EU borders. "If this is what contemporary cosmopolitanism is about," David Harvey argues, "then it is nothing other than an ethical and humanitarian mask for hegemonic neo-liberal practices of class domination and financial and militaristic imperialism" (84).

[15] At any rate, the aporetic nature of cosmopolitanism shows that no thinking of world citizenship is a creatio ex nihilo as it were, but is always embedded in local historical contingencies. David Harvey and Timothy Brennan have warned us that a 'false' cosmopolitanism can easily be instrumentalized for nationalist, imperial or neo-liberal purposes. In fact, "the greatest irony" of theorizing cosmopolitanism, Brennan notes, "is reached when a [so called] 'third world subject' is able to deconstruct the epistemological violence of colonialism only by way of continental theory" (Brennan, 2002, 675). As James Tully has convincingly suggested, the universal human rights discourse in particular has often been used as a kind of "trojan horse" for market liberalization, the logic of private property and western imperialism more generally (Tully, 2008, 259).

[16] The crucial question then is: can the concept of cosmopolitanism be rescued from becoming such a "trojan horse" for imperialist projects (whichever they might be)? Is there a way to think world citizenship outside of these delineated vectors of aporia? Cosmopolitanism, it seems, is predicated on the problematic combination of an always aspirational universal order (the cosmos) with that of the always particular alterity of specific human societies and cultures (the polises). Thus, we might deduce: the real problem of thinking cosmopolitanism is not so much how politics is played out in our cosmos, but rather how much our model of the cosmos actually influences our politics (cf. Latour, 2004).

3. Cosmo-Theory, Materialism and Assemblages

[17] In a recent book on globalization entitled The Creation of the World or Globalization, the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy has argued that a 'cosmotheoros,' a cosmotheory, would necessarily result in a form of ideology if one conceptualizes the cosmos as a world-picture. "Time has passed," he writes, "since one was able to represent the figure of a cosmotheoros, an observer of the world. And if time has passed, it is because the world is no longer conceived of as a representation. A representation of the world, a worldview, means the assigning of a principle and an end of the world" (Nancy, 2007). Drawing on Heidegger's essay The Age of the World-Picture, Nancy holds that any worldview in the sense of 'Weltanschauung' and ideology "is indeed the end of the world as viewed, digested, absorbed and dissolved in this vision." But how, if this is so, can one think cosmopolitanism outside representation and without the imposition of a 'cosmotheoros'?

[18] As a solution to this problem, I want to propose a Deleuze-Guattarian "assemblage approach," because Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari have always been materialist thinkers with a strong agenda to free thought from the manacle of representation. Instead of founding their style of reasoning upon representation and identity, the two thinkers have sought to replace the dualist tradition of Platonism with a Spinozean monism of articulation, difference and multiplicities. Most importantly, the Deleuzean notion of assemblages, in particular as developed by Manuel DeLanda, offers interesting new perspectives on the problems delineated above. To begin with, let me briefly define what an assemblage is and how it can help us reconfigure the problems raised by cosmopolitanism.

[19] Deleuze and Guattari famously "call an assemblage every constellation of singularities and traits deduced from the flow – selected, organized, stratified – in such a way as to converge (consistency), artificially and naturally, into extremely vast constellations constituting 'cultures' or even ages" (Deleuze and Guattari, 1997, 406). Assemblages, in other words, do not just group themselves into vast things on macroscopic levels but also to the tiniest things on microscopic levels. Here the Deleuze-Guattarian approach introduces an interesting scalability of social and cultural phenomena and enables explanation on multiple levels.

[20] According to Manuel DeLanda, in the social and cultural ontology that can be derived from Deleuze, an assemblage is always embedded into an intermediate zone of either smaller assemblages of which it is made, or lager assemblages of which it is a part. In a way, every entity consists of assemblages "all the way down," as much as it will always be part of a somewhat larger assemblage. An assemblage can be a car, a political party, a single person, or even any – in DeLanda's terms – "subpersonal component" such as an organ, cells or complex carbon molecules. Furthermore, assemblage theory claims that the connection between micro and macro does not justify the assumption of a totality, a finite order or a "seamless whole" (DeLanda, 2006, 4). Ultimately no assemblage can ever be complete and fully actualized. Rather, assemblages maintain their consistency while constantly changing, constantly becoming different assemblages. Assemblages, DeLanda holds, are born and cease to exist, not unlike a human body, a biological species or a population. The carbon molecule inside a human body, for instance, might at the present support the metabolism of a politician and might one time fertilize flowers and trees. Equally, cities are 'born' and will have a certain historical 'life span.'

[21] Theoretically, assemblage theory would allow for all kinds of speculations about possible assemblages and their interaction. However, as Graham Harman has argued supporting DeLanda's approach, just because all kinds of assemblages are thinkable, the fact that they "can become real should not obscure the point that they are not now real" (Harman, 2008). In any case, individual entities in the world, regardless of whether we are talking about individual persons, political parties, traffic jams, nations or transnational corporations, are emergent compounds on different spatio-temporal scales. As emergent wholes, these entities would cease to exist if their component parts would disappear – just like the proverbial war that would disappear if nobody showed up to fight. Because of this, DeLanda argues that every emergent entity, be that political parties, institutions, people, buildings or even intangible things as languages and ideologies, can be granted the ontological status of being "real" and, as he repeatedly assures us, they even have to be understood as existing independently of our minds.

[22] The idea of what constitutes an assemblage – and this is key to the argument developed here – stems from a Deleuzean reading of Spinoza: it is not a finite set of properties that defines an assemblage, but rather its potentially infinite capabilities, capabilities to enter and build new assemblages. Furthermore, assemblages are not constituted by a transcendent essence, a never changing idea that informs the entity. On the contrary, the morphogenesis of an assemblage is completely contingent upon the interaction of its parts and its environment. In fact, DeLanda understands individual components as interacting in relations of exteriority, which means that the capabilities and identities of a singular component are not necessarily reduced to the emergent entity it helps to assemble. Here is a short summary of basic criteria of emergent assemblages according to DeLanda (2006):

[23] How can this framework of thought help us solve the aporias of universalism referred to above? The notion of capabilities is interesting here because it opens a link to the normative dimensions of cosmopolitan ideals, especially as developed in moral philosophy. Within this branch of philosophy the philosopher Martha Nussbaum has developed a so-called "Capabilities Approach" to argue in favor of human rights and universal values. In Women and Human Development (2000), Nussbaum defines basic human rights as a set of capabilities that should be respected by governments across the globe in order to assure an absolute minimum of respect for human dignity. She formulates a set of ten central human capabilities comprising health, bodily integrity, sense, emotions, reason, affiliation, other species, play and control over one's environment (cf. Nussbaum, 2000, 80). Seen from a postcolonial perspective, the restrictedness of such an explicit and exhaustive catalog of capabilities is of course questionable. As Amartya Sen has argued, Nussbaum's exact list and ranking of capabilities is simply inappropriate when it comes to the specificity of cultural or geographical contexts and – perhaps even worse – would furthermore diminish the role of public reasoning concerning rights and capabilities (Sen, 2004). Instead of prescribing a fixed list of capabilities to define fundamental human rights, Sen holds that capabilities as such can be seen as a condition of possibility for freedom and fundamental human rights. Most interestingly however, Sen argues that freedom understood on the basis of capability is predicated on the "opportunity to achieve combinations of functioning." And, he adds,

Capability, as a kind of freedom, refers to the extent to which the person is able to choose particular combinations of functioning ... no matter what the person actually decides to choose ... . The fact that many of the terrible deprivations in the world seem to arise from a lack of freedom to avoid those deprivations ... is an important motivational reason to emphasize the role of freedom. This led Marx to argue passionately for the need to replace 'the domination of circumstances and chance over individuals by the domination of individuals over chance and circumstances.' (Sen, 2004, 334)

To discuss whether Sen's capabilities approach alone is sufficient to formulate a strong moral philosophy of human rights lies beyond the scope of the ideas developed here. Sen, for example, indicates that there are many things the capabilities approach 'cannot do.' Most notably, he explains, it needs further qualification in regard to the equality of capabilities (Sen, 2004, 334). At any rate, the point I would like to make here is that capabilities seen as a potential – or to use a Deleuzean vocabulary – as a virtual form of freedom that needs to be actualized in specific circumstances, constitute an interesting way to think about the convoluted relationship of the universal aspiration of cosmopolitan ideals and their concrete realizations. For what the concept of capabilities takes into view is the procedural nature of structures and the fact that 'we' can change them. To integrate the findings of assemblage theory into the philosophy of cosmopolitanism would thus not only update Marx's famous thesis eleven on Feuerbach to a new material basis, capable of including notions of non-linearity and quasi-causality, it might also help to reformulate the structure/agency relation that is so intricately connected to the cosmopolitan question.

[24] If the notion of capabilities is applied to the Deleuzian model, a cosmopolitan assemblage can be defined as one that creates an equal distribution of capabilities for its sub-components and other assemblages. A cosmopolitan assemblage accordingly would be one that allows for the greatest degree of freedom and agency for itself, its sub-components and its surrounding assemblages. This would be compatible with the elementary ethics Deleuze has drawn from Spinoza. In a lecture from 1978 Deleuze famously explained:

Sadness will be any passion whatsoever which involves a diminution of my power of acting, and joy will be any passion involving an increase in my power of acting. This conception will allow Spinoza to become aware, for example, of a quite fundamental moral and political problem which will be his way of posing the political problem to himself: how does it happen that people who have power [pouvoir], in whatever domain, need to affect us in a sad way? The sad passions as necessary. Inspiring sad passions is necessary for the exercise of power. And Spinoza says, in the Theological-Political Treatise, that this is a profound point of connection between the despot and the priest—they both need the sadness of their subjects. (Deleuze, 1978)

It is in the encounter with other assemblages that the passions of sadness or joy can unfold, achieving either an increase of capabilities or a diminution of it. Unfortunately, similar to the problem raised by Sen's capabilities approach, the Deleuzean ethics also falls short of accounting for the "fairness or equity of the processes involved" (Sen, 2004). Notably in the context of postcolonial encounters, as Simone Bignall has recently put it, "Deleuze's interpretation of Spinozean ethics, and the use we might make of it in a postcolonial context, is poorly understood unless Deleuze's quite particular reading of Spinozean embodiment is taken into consideration" (Bignall, 2010, 86). In her remarkable essay on "affective assemblages," she points to the fact that such encounters must not be seen as a meeting of two closed totalities, but rather as a coming together of two or more entities "characterized by the multifarious relations it forms with the great number of neighboring bodies comprising its contextualizing social milieu."

[25] As explained above, assemblage theory views every social or cultural entity as emerging from the relations between entities acting at a smaller scale. The fact that an emerging assemblage, such as a government for example, is able to react back on its constituents does not imply that societies or cultures form a systematic whole (DeLanda, 2006). Rather, because each level retains its autonomy, agency should be regarded as a multiscalar and multilayered process of actualized capabilities to interact with and constitute new assemblages. "Existing bodies [that is, assemblages]," Deleuze writes in his book on Spinoza,

do not encounter one another in the order in which their relations combine. There is a combination of relations in any encounter, but the relations that combine are not necessarily those of the bodies that meet [...] Existing bodies, being themselves composed of extensive parts, meet bit by bit. (Deleuze, 1990, 237; also quoted in Bignall, 2010)

Similarly, I suggest that the reality of a cosmopolitan assemblage would also be constituted and characterized by such a "multifarious relation" happening bit by bit. Or to put this in a different way: a cosmopolitan assemblage does not necessarily have to happen on the scale of nation-states, federations of states or transnational actors. A cosmopolitan assemblage could form at the level of sub-components or their emergent products. The crucial point is that a mutual increase in capabilities has to be created. Only relations of increased mutual capabilities can result in what I would propose to call assembled togetherness.

4. Assemblages and the Aporias of World Citizenship

[26] What remains to be proven, of course, is the potential that the perspective of assembled togetherness brings to the aporias of cosmopolitanism outlined above. With regard to the first problem – cosmopolitanism as possible only in a supposedly more "developed" or a more "advanced" cultural form: As I have shown, notions of cosmopolitanism have often been associated with an educated elite, a form of 'connoisseurship' that was the result of essential features such as polyglotism, knowledge and the ability to access and 'consume' other cultures (cf. Hannerz, 1996). Assemblage theory can easily refute this asymmetrical notion of progress in which "local cultures" are seen as not yet being "advanced" enough to produce these properties. It does not regard individual entities and people in terms of exclusive and essentialist properties but rather appreciates their capabilities to enter other, new assemblages. From the perspective of assemblage theory this means that manifestations of cosmopolitanism emerge from mutual and multifarious relations and cannot be understood as the result of a teleological historical development.

[27] As to the second aporia: privilege or precariousness. According to misled, elitist versions of cosmopolitanism, an offspring of a wealthy family of, say, diplomats, who speaks more than four languages and is familiar with various parts of the world, would be considered more likely to exhibit cosmopolitan traits than people from poorer social strata. Yet as Paul Gilroy (2004), Homi Bhabha (2008) and others have argued, intercultural conviviality is far from being a matter of higher (western) education but has basically become a quotidian normality in many global cities. Bhabha has introduced the term "vernacular cosmopolitanism" in order to designate processes of cultural mobility that include also those who are not moved by the pure potentials of financial and material opportunities but are instead driven to move in search for a better life. A cosmopolitan assemblage might emerge from the basis of commerce and growing economic wealth, but it does not necessarily have to. A major risk of talking about vernacular forms of cosmopolitanism is that they downplay exploitative transnational labor relations and might be misused to depoliticize global poverty. This is explicitly not my intention. What I want to show on the contrary is the fact that agency is not tied to the mantra of economic growth and free market fundamentalism. I concur with David Held, who defines the economic dimension of cosmopolitanism as a rationale for intervention to "provide the basis for self-determination and active agency." "Economic cosmopolitanism" he argues "connotes the enhancement of people's economic capacities to pursue their own projects – individual and collective – within the constraints of community and interdependence between communities" (Held, 2010, 108). With a focus on practical agency, assemblage theory can help to qualify the notion of "vernacular cosmopolitanism" in the way Held has suggested.

[28] Finally, the third aporia: cosmopolitanism as philanthropy. Just as Diogenes refused to commit himself to the polis by referring to his world-citizenship, so do many of the billionaires of the world today tend to take refuge in international tax havens instead of paying taxes in their home countries. In order to justify this moral behavior it has become a common practice in the US and increasingly in Europe to donate a considerable amount of money instead of paying taxes. But such an ethos of giving cannot solve the problem of poverty on a global scale. Individual philanthropists, no matter how wealthy and generous their gifts are, will never be able to distribute the resources they give in a way that is the most beneficial for the largest possible number of people. Unregulated acts of private philanthropy in this sense will never be able to create a mutual increase of capabilities as they necessarily install an asymmetric power relation of giving and receiving. Just as the "invisible hand of liberalism" was not able to settle the distribution of resources in an equilibrium, similarly the conspicuously "visible hands" of philanthropists cannot ensure the basic requirements for an individual autonomy. I would again agree with David Held, who contends that economic cosmopolitanism must establish a "transfer system" involving "measures of regional and global taxation" (Held, 2010, 109). On a national and supranational level, a cosmopolitan assemblage would thus have to be a "transfer system" of capabilities and autonomy and not just a perpetuation of the apparatus of capture of philanthropy.

5. Conclusion

[29] The question 'we' might thus ask is: are there ways to actively produce an assemblage, especially a cosmopolitan one? The strong emphasis of emergent processes within Deleuzean thinking and in theories derived from it seems to suggest a nature-like givenness that exists completely outside and beyond human agency. If a really existing form of cosmopolitanism, for which I am arguing here, can be conceptualized as an emergent product of 'assembled togetherness,' then what happens to human agency in this context?

[30] Slavoj Žižek and Alain Badiou have often accused Deleuzean thinking to be a hylozoist and vitalist pseudoscience of inorganic life that reduces the political potential of human actions. I agree with Leslie Dema, who has convincingly shown that such a charge is an empty one (cf. Dema, 2007). To speak of inorganic life and the complex autopoietic potentials of matter does not eradicate human agency as such, but it changes our perspective on it. Assemblage theory is an attempt to "think outside" of anthropocentrism. It does not conflate agency with subjectivity and identity. As I have tried to show, within assemblage theory one cannot assume a linear chain of cause and effect. Instead, causality happens in the form of "quasi"- or "statistic causality" (DeLanda, 2006). If causality here is understood as a non-linear quasi-causality, many small different causes in combination with an entire population of other causes would be necessary to cross the threshold of consistency. The flipside of this, however, entails that even the smallest quasi-causes, like utterances and conversations for example, can make a difference in the long run. In this respect, "actions" might in the end not necessarily "speak louder than words." Indeed, especially literary works of art have produced actually existing cosmopolitan assemblages starting as quasi-causes. In his essay "On the Superiority of Anglo-American Literature" Deleuze writes:

The minimum real unit is not the word, the idea, the concept or the signifier, but the assemblage. It is always an assemblage that produces utterances. Utterances do not have at their cause a subject, which would act as a subject of enunciation, any more than they are related to subjects as subjects of utterances. The utterance is a product of an assemblage – which is always collective, which brings into play within us and outside us populations, multiplicities, territories, becomings, affects, events. (Deleuze, 2007, 51)

Just as an utterance does not have a genuine author that produces it, so also a cosmopolitan assemblage cannot simply have a single subject as its cause. Both are collective products of a pure multiplicity, emerging on various spatio-temporal scales, atomic, personal and institutional. Therefore, literary works of art can be seen as cosmopolitan assemblages that unfold novel capabilities to engage with other cultures, societies and people. Fiction is a laboratory that enables us to explore moral situations, social and cultural differences, and to acquire novel perspectives on our environment. It is self-evident that such a causal power is not straightforwardly applicable to the creation of cosmopolitan assemblages; yet there are also numerous examples in world literature that show that quasi-causality may indeed result in effective agency.

[31] A prime example is the cosmopolitan work of Herman Melville and its renditions and reverberations in 20th century thought. Donald Pease has drawn attention to the fact that especially C.L.R. James's scholarly discussion of Melville's work has opened new transnational and cosmopolitan perspectives to the contemporary world (Pease, 2002). In Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In (2001), the Trinidadian intellectual James compared Ellis Island, to which he was deported, with the extraterritorial space of the Pequod. Completed in 1953 and written in the shadows of the McCarran-Walter Act, which restricted U.S. immigration during the Cold War and legitimized U.S. authorities to deport immigrants or citizens "engaged in subversive activities," the revision of Moby Dick in Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways "proposed that the McCarran-Walter Act continued Ahab's form of governance" (Pease, 2002, 144). In the light of James's study, Melville's ship suddenly appears as a critique of modernity that "juxtaposed folkloric with transnational and cosmopolitan forms of expression" (Pease, 144). Especially Melville's discovery of Anacharsis Cloots, a Prussian advocate of the French Revolution of 1789 and a proponent of the "Universal Republic," inspired James to envision utopian assemblies of a polycultural world.

Nearly all on Ahab's ship were islanders, and in fact, nearly all the nations of the globe had each its representative. Isolatoes, Melville called them, not acknowledging the common continent of men, but each Isolato living on a separate continent of his own. Yet now, federated along one keel, what a set these Isolatoes were! An Anacharsis Clootz deputation from all the isles of the sea, and all the ends of earth. (James, 2001 [1956], quoting Melville, 2006 [1851])

On one level, this federation of isolatoes along "the keel" of the world transposed onto the personal circumstances of a Trinidadian intellectual writing in the middle of the cold war illustrates the multifarious and quasi-causal relations of cosmopolitan assemblages active across the centuries. On another level it reminds us that the dream of a transnational, democratic assembly of men (and women of course!) is probably the most resilient and enduring form of assembled togetherness 'we' have ever produced. With regard to the interconnected and aporetic 'world we currently live' in, it is a virtuality whose actualization has never been more urgent than now.


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