Why Not Socialism? by G. A. Cohen

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Synopsis

Is socialism desirable? Is it even possible? In this concise book, one of the world's leading political philosophers presents with clarity and wit a compelling moral case for socialism and argues that the obstacles in its way are exaggerated.

There are times, G. A. Cohen notes, when we all behave like socialists. On a camping trip, for example, campers wouldn't dream of charging each other to use a soccer ball or for fish that they happened to catch. Campers do not give merely to get, but relate to each other in a spirit of equality and community. Would such socialist norms be desirable across society as a whole? Why not? Whole societies may differ from camping trips, but it is still attractive when people treat each other with the equal regard that such trips exhibit.

But, however desirable it may be, many claim that socialism is impossible. Cohen writes that the biggest obstacle to socialism isn't, as often argued, intractable human selfishness--it's rather the lack of obvious means to harness the human generosity that is there. Lacking those means, we rely on the market. But there are many ways of confining the sway of the market: there are desirable changes that can move us toward a socialist society in which, to quote Albert Einstein, humanity has "overcome and advanced beyond the predatory stage of human development."

 

About G. A. Cohen

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G. A. Cohen (1941-2009) was emeritus fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford. His books include "Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence" (Princeton), "If You're an Egalitarian, How Come You're So Rich?", and "Rescuing Justice and Equality".
 
Published August 24, 2009 by Princeton University Press. 88 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Why Not Socialism?

Book Geeks

Cohen’s style in this book is mostly conversational, with some enjoyably light asides, as when he concludes his discussion of camping with the revelation that he is not outdoorsy “or, at any rate … not outdoorsy overnight-without-a-mattress-wise.” However, at times it becomes a little dense or br...

Nov 18 2009 | Read Full Review of Why Not Socialism?

The Firebrand Magazine

To explain the socialist sense of equality of opportunity, Cohen establishes three different types of equal opportunity: 1) bourgeois equality of opportunity, 2) left-liberal equality of opportunity, and 3) socialist equality of opportunity.

Jun 04 2012 | Read Full Review of Why Not Socialism?

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