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Views of Marx

G.A. Cohen, 15 May 1980

Marxism and Class Theory: A Bourgeois Critique 
by Frank Parkin.
Tavistock, 217 pp., £6.95, October 1979, 0 422 76790 5
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Karl Marx 
edited by Tom Bottomore.
Blackwell, 194 pp., £9.95, September 1979, 0 631 10961 7
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... Frank Parkin calls his challenging book ‘bourgeois’, but it is possible to be more bourgeois about class than Parkin is. Much bourgeois sociology denies the existence of distinct classes: it sees only gentle gradations of income, status and power. Parkin’s classes are as real as those of any Marxist. He thinks there is an exploiting bourgeoisie and an exploited proletariat ...

Mind the gap

G.A. Cohen, 14 May 1992

Equality and Partiality 
by Thomas Nagel.
Oxford, 186 pp., £13.95, November 1991, 0 19 506967 6
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... Sidney Morgenbesser says that ‘All Philo is Philo l.’ He means, I think, that nothing is established in philosophy. At any time everything can be turned around, and the front line is pretty close to base camp. A book by Thomas Nagel proves Morgenbesser’s point. There is no better philosophical primer than Nagel’s What does it all mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy (1987 ...

Happy Campers

Ellen Meiksins Wood: G.A. Cohen, 28 January 2010

Why Not Socialism? 
by G.A. Cohen.
Princeton, 83 pp., £10.95, September 2009, 978 0 691 14361 3
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... overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development’, and for G.A. Cohen ‘every market … is a system of predation.’ That is the essence of his short but trenchant and elegantly written last book – Cohen died last August. His object is to make what he calls a ‘preliminary’ case ...

My body is my own

David Miller, 31 October 1996

Self-Ownership, Freedom and Equality 
by G.A. Cohen.
Cambridge, 277 pp., £40, October 1995, 0 521 47174 5
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... and giving people casts about the water is my business, which I would do for anybody.’ G.A. Cohen is one of the few socialists left today who is still drawn to this vision of an egalitarian community governed by the principle of freely-given service, and Self-Ownership, Freedom and Equality can be seen as an indirect attempt to reaffirm its ...

British Marxism

Richard Norman, 21 February 1980

Karl Marx’s Theory of History: A Defence 
by G.A. Cohen.
Oxford, 369 pp., £10.50, December 1978, 0 19 827196 4
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Marxism After Marx: An Introduction 
by David McLellan.
Macmillan, 355 pp., £8.95, December 1980, 0 333 72208 6
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... anyone else have been able to do much more than fill the gap with importations. In this situation, Cohen’s defence of historical materialism represents a significant new departure. Unlike most Marxists, and in particular most Marxist philosophers, Cohen sees great value in the techniques and achievements of British ...

On and off the page

Thomas Nagel, 25 July 1991

Isaiah Berlin: A Celebration 
by Edna Margalit and Avishai Margalit.
Hogarth, 224 pp., £25, June 1991, 0 7012 0925 9
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... that begins with engaging personal reminiscence and goes on to careful exegetical argument, G.A. Cohen recounts his experience as a student of Berlin’s, and then takes issue with his view of Marx as devoid of familiar moral attitudes toward social injustice, yet vindictively drawn by the prospect of a violent reckoning. Given the strategic lessons that the ...

The kind of dog he likes

W.G. Runciman: Realistic Utopias, 18 December 2014

Justice for Earthlings: Essays in Political Philosophy 
by David Miller.
Cambridge, 254 pp., £18.99, January 2013, 978 1 107 61375 1
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... with him. He has in his sights the ‘neo-Augustinians’, as he calls them, like the late G.A. Cohen, for whom justice can be realised only in a secular version of Augustine’s City of God, thereby leaving political philosophers with nothing to do but lament the size of the gap between the disappointing actual and the impossible ideal. What use is a ...

Ideologues

Peter Pulzer, 20 February 1986

The Redefinition of Conservatism: Politics and Doctrine 
by Charles Covell.
Macmillan, 267 pp., £27.50, January 1986, 0 333 38463 6
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Thinkers of the New Left 
by Roger Scruton.
Longman, 227 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 582 90273 8
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The Idea of Liberalism: Studies for a New Map of Politics 
by George Watson.
Macmillan, 172 pp., £22.50, November 1985, 0 333 38754 6
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Socialism and Freedom 
by Bryan Gould.
Macmillan, 109 pp., £25, November 1985, 0 333 40580 3
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... is not true (though he is careful not to tangle refutations with Marxist heavyweights like G.A. Cohen), its persistence has to be explained away. Marxism, he diagnoses, is not a system of rationally-held beliefs. Its structure is that of myth, designed to satisfy ‘the human desire for beliefs which are at the same time scientific and ...

On the Defensive

Ross McKibbin, 26 January 1995

Social Justice: Strategies for National Renewal. The Report of the Commission on Social Justice 
Vintage, 418 pp., £6.99, October 1994, 9780099511410Show More
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... Labour Party and its traditions. In a recent issue of New Left Review the political theorist G.A. Cohen criticised the Report (or rather one of its previously published working papers) on the ground that it has abandoned any ‘foundational’ beliefs. The commitment to equality as a principle has been forsaken for an instrumental definition whereby equality ...

Bendy Rulers

Glen Newey: Amartya Sen, 28 January 2010

TheIdea of Justice 
by Amartya Sen.
Allen Lane, 468 pp., £25, July 2009, 978 1 84614 147 8
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... the Almighty and meting out condign punishment to malefactors. In similar vein, the late G.A. Cohen argued that ‘principles’ were ‘prior’ to facts: any given fact will have practical implications only if there is some principle which tells us why we should pay heed to that fact. For instance, someone who thinks it makes a difference, when ...

Marxismo

Jon Elster, 18 March 1982

Marx’s Politics 
by Alan Gilbert.
Martin Robertson, 326 pp., £16.50, August 1981, 0 85520 441 9
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The History of Marxism. Vol. 1: Marxism in Marx’s Day 
edited by Eric Hobsbawm.
Harvester, 349 pp., £30, January 1982, 0 7108 0054 1
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Dialectic of Defeat: Contours of Western Marxism 
by Russell Jacoby.
Cambridge, 202 pp., £15.80, January 1982, 9780521239158
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Analytical Foundations of Marxian Economic Theory 
by John Roemer.
Cambridge, 230 pp., £19.50, August 1981, 0 521 23047 0
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Karl Marx: The Arguments of the Philosophers 
by Allen Wood.
Routledge, 304 pp., £13.50, January 1981, 0 7100 0672 1
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... action, and historical materialism. The outstanding work in this respect is the book by G.A. Cohen, Karl Marx’s Theory of History. Within economics there are some instances of Marxism making a positive contribution to economic theory, if not yet to our understanding of actual economies. But there is a long way to go before one can talk of the ...

Heroes

Pat Rogers, 6 November 1986

Hume and the Heroic Portrait: Studies in 18th-Century Imagery 
by Edgar Wind, edited by Jaynie Anderson.
Oxford, 139 pp., £29.50, May 1986, 0 19 817371 7
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Augustan Studies: Essays in honour of Irvin Ehrenpreis 
edited by Douglas Lane Patey and Timothy Keegan.
University of Delaware Press, 270 pp., £24.50, May 1986, 9780874132724
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The 18th Century: The Intellectual and Cultural Context of English Literature 1700-1789 
by James Sambrook.
Longman, 290 pp., £15.95, April 1986, 0 582 49306 4
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... is a kind of delusion, a substitute for reality and often an illicit improvement upon it.’ Ralph Cohen follows the transgeneric fortunes and misfortunes of George Barnwell, and Maximillian Novak pursues sincerity and authenticity in Defoe. He sees Bishop Hoadly as a catalyst here, but doesn’t note one irony: Hoadly may have ‘shared more than a few ideas ...

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