- 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: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality (Studies in Marxism and Social Theory)
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"...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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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. He claims that it assumes that things in their natural state are unowned and that the proviso (doesn't worsen the situation of others compared to the objects remaining in its natural state) should take into account alternative uses of the object besides for capitalist appropriation and its remaining in its natural state.
Chapter 10 criticizes the idea of self ownership claiming that it is appealing because of its association with autonomy and true freedom but that it in fact is an obstacle to their realization.
His conclusion, "Future of a Disillusion", reflects on the demise of Socialism in Russia and the future of Socialism. He positively presents Market Socialism as a worthy goal in the short term.
The book is clearly written and I enjoyed reading it as an opportunity to see what a well respected critic had to say about Libertarianism. Ultimately, I wasn't persuaded but it was worth reading.
Greg Feirman (email@example.com)
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.
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.