Jazz Bands, Camping Trips and Decommodification: G. A. Cohen on Community
Socialist Studies, Vol. 8, 2012
20 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2011
Date Written: November 15, 2011
This paper studies G. A. Cohen’s account of community, in the context of his forceful critique of (Rawlsian) liberalism. I begin by discussing the two general forms of Cohen’s conception of community, justificatory community and communal reciprocity, contrasting them with Marx’s. I argue, first, that Cohen offers a compelling critique of liberalism, which successfully brings to the fore a difficulty liberals have making sense of, indeed attaching value to, community. I then argue that Cohen’s novel account of community is in deep and problematic tension with his own theory of justice. Finally, I try to show, against liberals of most persuasions, that the second form of fraternity, which warrants the diminution or eradication of fear and greed from human relationships, is incompatible with commodification, i.e. with markets for human labor power. I thus try to vindicate Cohen’s view that ‘every market, even a socialist market, is a system of predation’.
Keywords: fraternity, community, difference principle, market socialism, equality, Rawls, Marxism
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