The New Cosmopolitan Class

In an article in the Daily Times of Pakistan which hits on another fascinating effect of cultural globalization, professor Robert Shiller notes the widening gap between "locals" and "cosmopolitans," and how cosmopolitan influentials around the world have more in common with each other than their neighbor down the street (or the person serving their food):

Rovere’s influential people seemed to be sharply divided into ‘cosmopolitan influentials,’ who habitually orient themselves with respect to the world at large, and ‘local influentials,’ who orient themselves with respect to their own town….

One must realise that individuals choose whether to play the role of cosmopolitan or local, and how much to invest in that role. People make a conscious choice to become either cosmopolitans or locals, depending on their own personal talents and the perceived returns from making the choice.

In the twenty-first century, the new information age creates opportunities not just to be cosmopolitan in spirit and orientation, but to forge strong connections with other cosmopolitans. The cosmopolitans have shared experiences: they are directly communicating with each other across the globe. Many cosmopolitans around the world now also share the English language, the new lingua franca…

The cosmopolitans tend to be increasingly wealthy, and their wealth helps mark them as cosmopolitan. Thus, economic inequality is felt differently in today’s world. Perhaps it is accepted resignedly, as the cosmopolitan class is too amorphous and ill-defined to be the target of any social movement. There is no spokesperson for the cosmopolitan class, no organisation that could be blamed for what is happening.

I fear for the future. How will the cosmopolitan class behave as their role in the world economy continues to strengthen? How unfeeling will they come to be about the people who share their neighbourhoods? Most importantly, if resentment by the locals emerges, what political consequences will result?

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