This volume contains an essay by Nussbaum published originally in the Boston Review, along with 16 replies and a final word by the author. Nussbaum, a classics scholar, rejects calls by scholars Richard Rorty and Sheldon Hackney for a greater sense of shared American values, arguing instead for a commitment to overarching human values and a cosmopolitan identity as world citizens, which will be an antidote to ethnocentrism on matters like family values and will make Americans more aware of global problems like environmental pollution. There are substantial normative and practical problems with this point of view, as responses by Benjamin Barber, Nathan Glazer, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and others point out. Nussbaum's classification of national identity as just one of a whole series of smaller and larger identities misses the fact that nations continue to be the primary political embodiments of differing principles of justice. One cannot be concerned with "rights" as a universal value, whether of women, ethnic minorities, or individuals, without being aware that some regimes support while others systematically deny rights. And cosmopolitanism has no emotional appeal to anyone except a small group of intellectuals like the author herself, and perhaps a stratum of CEOs of multinationals for whom she presumably has little sympathy.
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