The New Cosmopolitans

As globalization proceeds, with the help of ever-faster communications, faster travel, and more powerful multinational corporations, a new, cosmopolitan social class seems to be emerging. These citizens of the world are developing loyalties to each other that cross national boundaries.

I was at a dinner the other night with Yale World Fellows, a carefully selected group of professionals, representing every major country of the world, who spend a semester here. It was an unusual experience, because I began to feel that none of these people were really foreign to me. It seemed they were probably easier to talk to than the local Americans who were waiting on us as and serving food.

Of course, a cosmopolitan class is hardly new. In fact, 50 years ago, in his classic book Social Theory and Social Structure, the late sociologist Robert K. Merton described the results of a case study of influential people in a typical American town, Rovere, New Jersey. As a sociologist, he chose this tiny town to study how people relate to each other and influence each other, just as biologists study tiny worms with only a few hundred cells so that they can study how each cell relates to an organism as a whole.

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