Comment on cosmopolitan politesse

Goodness, justice, civil society

in Journal of Legal Anthropology

This comment focuses less on the three hopes expressed in Nigel Rapport’s title than on the conception of individuality and its relation to the aspirations of the social sciences that underpins his case for cosmopolitan politesse. First, I want to say that Nigel Rapport’s industry is astonishing. He reads widely, across many genres, and has written a great deal aimed at persuading us of two things: that the social sciences suffer from fundamental shortcomings, and that they are implicated, if not complicit, in communitarianism and other worrying tendencies of our age. Possibly social anthropology’s most ardent, resilient and ‘poetic’ reformer, he offers us here a digest of one of his many publications concerned with establishing the central importance to anthropology – and to the possibility of a decent world – of what his friend, Michael Jackson, calls ‘the human microsphere’. Because of Rapport’s many different journeys through this microsphere, it is not possible here to cover more than a little of the terrain.