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Title: G.A. Cohen and what type of society we ought to seek
Author: King, Ben
ISNI:       0000 0004 5924 2346
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2015
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In this thesis I attempt to clarify and evaluate G. A. Cohen’s positive contribution to the question of what type of society we ought to seek, following his turn from Marxism to normative political philosophy. I specifically focus on clarifying and evaluating certain views that appear in his critical engagement with Ronald Dworkin and John Rawls, and in his positive vision of society as set out in Why Not Socialism? I interpret Cohen as holding that, in principle, we ought to seek a society that reflects equal access to advantage (or some other luck egalitarian principle of equality of opportunity), Pareto-efficiency, freedom of occupational choice, and a principle of community that, by means of voluntary non-state agency, significantly tempers inequalities consistent with luck egalitarianism. With respect to evaluative matters, I argue: (i) that we ought not to embrace equal access to advantage but rather an alternative luck egalitarian principle of equality of opportunity where opportunities are specified in terms of resources; (ii) that although equality of opportunity, Pareto-efficiency and freedom of occupational choice might be co-obtainable in principle, they are not coobtainable in practice; and (iii) that in practice equality of opportunity ought to be constrained by a sufficiency qualification rather than by Cohen’s community principle. In addition, I interpret a concession from Cohen about Paretoefficiency often trumping equality of opportunity, in practice, in terms of a pluralist distributive ethic that combines telic egalitarian and telic prioritarian beliefs. I defend the plausibility of this ethic to some extent, but ultimately come to embrace a sufficiency-constrained luck egalitarianism that secures a decent life for all by means of state coercion, and which minimizes the unfairness of the prudent having to bear the costs of other’s imprudence.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: JC Political theory