This is the second of three volumes of posthumously collected writings of G. A. Cohen, who was one of the leading, and most progressive, figures in contemporary political philosophy. This volume brings together some of Cohen's most personal philosophical and nonphilosophical essays, many of them previously unpublished. Rich in first-person narration, insight, and humor, these pieces vividly demonstrate why Thomas Nagel described Cohen as a "wonderful raconteur." The nonphilosophical highlight of the book is Cohen's remarkable account of his first trip (...) to India, which includes unforgettable vignettes of encounters with strangers and reflections on poverty and begging. Other biographical pieces include his valedictory lecture at Oxford, in which he describes his philosophical development and offers his impressions of other philosophers, and "Isaiah's Marx, and Mine," a tribute to his mentor Isaiah Berlin. Other essays address such topics as the truth in "small-c conservatism," who can and can't condemn terrorists, and the essence of bullshit. A recurring theme is finding completion in relation to the world of other human beings. Engaging, perceptive, and empathetic, these writings reveal a more personal side of one of the most influential philosophers of our time. (shrink)
G. A. Cohen was one of the most gifted, influential, and progressive voices in contemporary political philosophy. At the time of his death in 2009, he had plans to bring together a number of his most significant papers. This is the first of three volumes to realize those plans. Drawing on three decades of work, it contains previously uncollected articles that have shaped many of the central debates in political philosophy, as well as papers published here for the first time. (...) In these pieces, Cohen asks what egalitarians have most reason to equalize, he considers the relationship between freedom and property, and he reflects upon ideal theory and political practice. Included here are classic essays such as "Equality of What?" and "Capitalism, Freedom, and the Proletariat," along with more recent contributions such as "Fairness and Legitimacy in Justice," "Freedom and Money," and the previously unpublished "How to Do Political Philosophy." On ample display throughout are the clarity, rigor, conviction, and wit for which Cohen was renowned. Together, these essays demonstrate how his work provides a powerful account of liberty and equality to the left of Ronald Dworkin, John Rawls, Amartya Sen, and Isaiah Berlin. (shrink)
Many people, including many egalitarian political philosophers, professa belief in equality while enjoying high incomes of which they devotevery little to egalitarian purposes. The article critically examinesways of resolving the putative inconsistency in the stance of thesepeople, in particular, that favouring an egalitarian society has noimplications for behaviour in an unequal one; that what''s bad aboutinequality is a social division that philanthropy cannot reduce; thatprivate action cannot ensure that others have good lives; that privateaction can only achieve a ``drop in (...) the ocean''''; that private effortis not called for, since justice is a matter for the state to enforce;that private effort cannot remove the fundamental injustice, whichis inequality of power; and that private effort involves an unreasonablylarge psychological burden. (shrink)
The article studies the implications for historical materialism of the failure of the socialist project in the Soviet Union. The author demonstrates that the said failure broadly confirms central historical materialist theses, which would have been difficult to sustain if the Russian revolution had succeeded in its goal of superseding capitalism and establishing a socialist society.
In reply to Narveson, I distinguish his no-proviso argument from his liberty argument, and I show that both fail. I also argue that interference lacks the strategic status he assigns to it, because it cannot be appropriately distinguished, conceptually and morally, from prevention; that natural resources do enjoy the importance he denies they have; that laissez-faire economies lack the superiority he attributes to them; that ownership can indeed be a reflexive relation; that anti-paternalism does not entail libertarianism; and that he (...) misrepresents the doctrines of a number of philosophers, including John Locke, Ronald Dworkin, and myself. In reply to Brenkert, I show that he seriously misconstrues my view of the nature of freedom, and of its relationship to self-ownership. I then refute his criticisms of my treatment of the contrasts between self-ownership, on the one hand, and autonomy and non-slavery, on the other. I also show that his attempt to exorcize the demon of self-ownership is multiply flawed. (shrink)
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Section I argues, against Peter Mew, that, since people create nothing ex nihilo, everything now privately owned incorporates something that once was not, and that this has important consequences for distributive justice. Section II defends the ?diachronic? approach to distributive justice against Mew's charge that it is ?otiose?, and section III claims that beliefs about distributive justice have a big effect on political conflict in the real world. Section IV enters a few disagreements with Mew's account of the political ?quiescence? (...) of the Western proletariat. Section V relieves the tension between the Marxist commitment to the advancement of productive power and the Marxist commitment to those at whose expense that advancement occurs. (shrink)
In ?The Labour Theory of Value and the Concept of Exploitation? I distinguished between two ways in which the labour theory of value is formulated, both of which are common. In the popular formulation, the amount of value a commodity has depends on how much labour was spent producing it. In the strict formulation, which is so called because it formulates the labour theory of value proper, the amount of value a commodity has depends on nothing about its history but (...) only on how much labour would (now) be required to produce something just like it. I argued that strict and popular formulations are often wrongly treated as substantially equivalent, and that the practice of conflating them sustains two false impressions: that the labour theory of value is a basis for saying that capitalists exploit workers, and that the labour theory of value is true. The present paper is a reply to Nancy Holmstrom's recent attempt, in ?Marx and Cohen on Exploitation and the Labor Theory of Value?, to refute the theses of the article referred to above. (shrink)
I argued in Karl Marx's Theory of History that the central claims of historical materialism are functional explanations, and I said that functional explanations are consequence explanations, ones, that is, in which something is explained by its propensity to have a certain kind of effect. I also claimed that the theory of chance variation and natural selection sustains functional explanations, and hence consequence explanations, of organismic equipment. In Section I I defend the thesis that historical materialism offers functional or consequence (...) explanations, and I reject Jon Elster's contention that game theory can, and should, assume a central role in the Marxist theory of society. In Section II I contrast functional and consequence explanation, thereby revising the position of Karl Marx's Theory of History, and I question whether evolutionary biology supports functional explanations. Section III is a critique of Elster's views on functional explanation, and Sections IV and V defend consequence explanation against metaphysical and epistemological doubts. A concluding section summarizes my present understanding of the status of historical materialist explanations. (shrink)
Let us now suppose that I have sold the product of my own labour for money, and have used the money to hire a labourer, i.e., I have bought somebody else's labour-power. Having taken advantage of this labour-power of another, I turn out to be the owner of value which is considerably higher than the value I spent on its purchase. This, from one point of view, is very just, because it has already been recognized, after all that I can (...) use what I have secured by exchange as is best and most advantageous to myself...1 Persons, who under a vicious order of things have obtained a competent share of social enjoyments, are never in want of arguments to justify to the eye of reason such a state of society; for what may not admit of apology when exhibited in but one point of view? If the same individuals were tomorrow required to cast anew the lots assigning them a place in society, they would find many things to object to.2. (shrink)