The discourse of corporate cosmopolitanism.
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This paper examines how the ideal of cosmopolitan identity is represented in selected popular global management texts. The paper argues that the corporate cosmopolitan ideal of a flexible identity draws interdiscursively on two main discourses. Firstly, the Enlightenment ideal of cosmopolitanism, expressed as a moral imperative towards detachment from existing cultural identities and loyalties in the name of the adoption of a universal perspective. This is reflected in the rhetoric of the necessity for managers and employees to ‘transform’ themselves from ‘locals’ into ‘cosmopolitans’. This uplifting rhetoric of ‘transformation’ is however accompanied by the more prosaic discourse of cosmopolitanism as a competence in ‘managing culture’ which can be acquired by all. Secondly, ‘corporate cosmopolitanism’ draws on a ‘postmodern’ ideal of a flexible ‘pastiche’ identity, distanced through irony from all existing cultural and other ‘hot’ loyalties. This discourse is personified in the image of the ‘hybrid’ as the ideal corporate cosmopolitan. The paper argues that corporate cosmopolitanism represents, not a utopia in which cultural difference and diversity is respected and celebrated, but a dystopia in which cultural difference is made superfluous by the establishment of a flexible transnational capitalist class with no attachment to or responsibility for place.