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Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality (Studies in Marxism and Social Theory) Paperback – November 24, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0521477512 ISBN-10: 0521477514

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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in Marxism and Social Theory
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (November 24, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521477514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521477512
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #937,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"...provides an extended and masterful examination of the relationships between the concepts of self-ownership, freedom, and equality." Nancy Holmstrom, The Philosophical Review

"Cohen's book is crammed with intricate, interesting, and often ingenious arguments." Jan Narveson, The Journal of Ethics

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Greg Feirman on March 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I am a libertarian and so I read Cohen's book with some interest. I was assigned it for a graduate seminar in Political Philosophy as a "refutation of Nozick". So I was curious to see how he went about refuting Nozick. I think that his arguments are interesting and it is a good excercise to understand them, and what is wrong with them since I don't think they ultimately work.
He criticizes the claim that voluntary transaction are just and preserve justice. He says that ignorance, unforeseeable consequences and accidents show that voluntary transactions can lead from just to unjust distributions. But the former criticism is unworkable since ignorance and unforeseeable consequences are inherent to all human action and any political scheme. Accidents are also inherent to human life and not the subject of justice: justice simply concerns relations between men. He also claims that market transactions are not truly voluntary because of constraints imposed by the market i.e. wages for labor of your kind are set beyond your control, prices of goods, opportunities for work or entrepenuership, etc.. But voluntary, in this context, simply means the absence of coercion. It does not mean the absence of all constraints. The latter is in fact impossible: constraints are set because we live in a world that works in a certain way, whose entities have a certain nature and behave accordingly.
He also has many criticisms of the Lockean/Nozickean rule of original acquisition.
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11 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Ken Lunce on April 4, 2012
Format: Paperback
I often despair about the future of humanity when I see so many right-wing libertarians swarming around cyberspace, like fevered zombies after the apocalypse. I'm comforted, though, by the lack of electoral support for their beloved Ron Paul. Gerald Allan Cohen was undoubtedly one of the most talented, and alas neglected, philosophers of the last century. This book, like all his work, is supremely well argued, like Gauss or some other prodigious mathematician painstakingly developing a proof for the law of quadratic reciprocity. I must add that he writes in that almost invisibly good and clear English that I thought had begun to die out of our academia. Cohen has an easy, winning ability to combine normative philosophical analysis with a kind of hauntingly beautiful conception of justice. What right-wing libertarians don't understand, as they surrender more and more freedom to corporate tyrannies, is that we egalitarians find it impossible to live but by our conscience. Self-determination is about so much more than choosing what brand of trousers to wear. Anyway, a book about philosophy cannot always be expected to raise acute questions about the world today, but the power of this book is immensely persuasive that it does. It is a book that needed to be written. A knock down, knock out riposte to all the Nozick nonsense which has so tragically dominated our political discourse in these last years. If you are a liberal, a socialist, an egalitarian or just an average wage-earner who believes in fairness and justice, this book is a MUST read. Trust me, you will not regret stumbling upon this author.
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17 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Eudaimonia on June 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
I don't want to do a thorough review of content. I just want to show why you should be very skeptical about this book:

The phrase "self-ownership" appears on 217 different pages in Cohen's critique of Nozick.

The phrase "self-ownership" appears exactly once in Nozick's book, on p. 172.

Hmmm...

Every political philosopher should read this book, but they owe it to themselves to take Nozick seriously. Try as he might, Cohen fails to do so. If you're interested in a basically knock-down response to Cohen, check out Eric Mack's "Self-Ownership, Marxism, and Egalitarianism", parts I and II, in the journal Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.
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5 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
Cohen does it again. In a work that defies brief summary, Prof. Cohen's arguments have sound logic, are truly provocative, and have profound normative implications. Few political theorists, especially if marxist, have such an admirable combination of analytical power and deep respect for the integrity of normative theory. Political philosophy at its best.
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