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Gerald Cohen

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Title: Gerald Cohen  
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Subject: Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence, Value-form, September group, Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, John Roemer
Collection: 1941 Births, 2009 Deaths, 20Th-Century Philosophers, 21St-Century Philosophers, Academics of University College London, Anglophone Quebec People, British Jews, British Marxists, British Political Philosophers, British Political Theorists, Canadian Jews, Canadian Marxists, Canadian Political Philosophers, Canadian Political Theorists, Chichele Professors of Social and Political Theory, Fellows of All Souls College, Oxford, Jewish Canadian Writers, Jewish Philosophers, Jewish Socialists, Marxist Theorists, McGill University Alumni, Scholars of Marxism, Statutory Professors of the University of Oxford, Writers from Montreal
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Gerald Cohen

G. A. Cohen
Born (1941-04-14)14 April 1941
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Died 5 August 2009(2009-08-05) (aged 68)
Oxford, England, United Kingdom
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Marxism, analytic philosophy, egalitarianism
Main interests
Political philosophy, ethics, philosophy of history, social theory
Notable ideas
Strict difference principle, egalitarian ethos

Gerald Allan "Jerry" Cohen, FBA (14 April 1941 – 5 August 2009) was a Marxist political philosopher who held the positions of Quain Professor of Jurisprudence, University College London and Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, All Souls College, Oxford. Born into a communist family in Montreal, Cohen was educated at McGill University, Canada (BA, philosophy and political science) and the University of Oxford (BPhil, philosophy) where he studied under Isaiah Berlin and Gilbert Ryle.

Cohen was assistant lecturer (1963–1964), lecturer (1964–1979) then reader (1979–1984) in the Department of Philosophy at University College London, before being appointed to the Chichele chair at Oxford in 1985. Several of his students, such as Alan Carter, Will Kymlicka, John McMurtry, David Leopold, Michael Otsuka, Seana Shiffrin and Jonathan Wolff have gone on to be important moral and political philosophers in their own right.

Known as a proponent of Analytical Marxism and a founding member of the September Group, Cohen's 1978 work Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence defends an interpretation of Marx's historical materialism often referred to as 'technological determinism' by its critics.[1] In Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality, Cohen offers an extensive moral argument in favour of socialism, contrasting his views with those of John Rawls and Robert Nozick, by articulating an extensive critique of the Lockean principle of self-ownership as well as the use of that principle to defend Right-libertarianism – as well as Left-libertarianismlibertarianism. In If You're an Egalitarian, How Come You're So Rich? (which covers the topic of his Gifford Lectures) Cohen addresses the question of what egalitarian political principles imply for the personal behaviour of those who subscribe to them.


  • Works 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4
  • External links 5


  • Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence (1978, 2000)
  • History, Labour, and Freedom (1988)
  • If You're an Egalitarian, How Come You're So Rich? (2000)
  • Chapter in Dworkin and his Critics, with replies by Dworkin (2004)
  • Rescuing Justice and Equality (2008)
  • Why Not Socialism? (2009) [Trad. esp.: ¿Por qué no el socialismo?, Buenos Aires/Madrid, Katz editores, 2011, ISBN 978-84-92946-13-6]
  • On the Currency of Egalitarian Justice, and Other Essays in Political Philosophy (2011)
  • Finding Oneself in the Other (2012)
  • Lectures on the History of Moral and Political Philosophy (2013)

See also


  1. ^

Further reading

  • The Egalitarian Conscience: Essays in Honour of G. A. Cohen (2006); edited by Christine Sypnowich

External links

  • Socialist Studies Special Edition on the Life and Work of G.A. Cohen
  • Imprints interview
  • Cohen's Tanner Lectures: "Incentives, Inequality, and Community"
  • Cohen interview at Philosophy Bites (mp3 audio)
  • The Third EstateObituary to Gerald Cohen at
  • The Monthly ReviewObituary in
  • The TimesObituary in
  • The GuardianObituary in
  • The IndependentObituary in
  • Socialist Worker in Remembering Jerry Cohen: A Tribute
  • The Oxonian Review in Why Not Socialism?Review of
  • volume for Jerry CohenJournal of Ethics
  • on Channel 4Against CapitalismCohen on YouTube
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