G. A. Cohen
Gerald Allan Cohen
14 April 1941
|Died||5 August 2009 (aged 68)|
|Other names||Jerry Cohen|
|Academic advisors||Gilbert Ryle|
|School or tradition|
|Notable works||Karl Marx's Theory of History (1978)|
Gerald Allan Cohen (; 1941-2009), known as G. A. Cohen or Jerry Cohen, was a Canadian 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. He was known for his work on Marxism, and later, egalitarianism and distributive justice in normative political philosophy.
Born into a communist Jewish family in Montreal, Quebec, on 14 April 1941, Cohen was educated at McGill University (BA, philosophy and political science) in his hometown and the University of Oxford (BPhil, philosophy), where he studied under Gilbert Ryle (and was also taught by Isaiah Berlin).
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 Christopher Bertram, Simon Caney, Alan Carter, Cécile Fabre, Will Kymlicka, John McMurtry, David Leopold, Michael Otsuka, Seana Shiffrin, and Jonathan Wolff went on to be important moral and political philosophers, while another, Ricky Gervais, has a successful career in comedy.
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 Karl Marx's historical materialism often called technological determinism by its critics. 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 as well as left-libertarianism. 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 hold them.
Cohen was close friends with Marxist political philosopher Marshall Berman.
Cohen died on 5 August 2009.