Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Mortimer Sellers, Stephan Kirste

Cohen, G.A.

  • Nicholas VrousalisEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6730-0_190-1


G. A. Cohen was a Canadian political philosopher. He taught at University College London and the University of Oxford, where he was Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at All Souls College for 23 years. Cohen is well known as a central figure in the analytical Marxism school and for his seminal critiques of the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick and the liberal philosopher John Rawls. This entry summarizes these debates and sketches the connections between them. It borrows heavily from Vrousalis (2015).

Historical Materialism

Historical materialism is a substantive thesis, originally elaborated in Marx (1977 [1859]), about what explains what in history. Cohen’s (1978) seminal exegesis of Marx consists in an extensive defense of two claims: the first primacy thesis, according to which the productive forces, roughly human technology, have explanatory primacy over the economic structure, roughly relations of economic power, and the second primacy thesis,...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leiden UniversityLeidenNetherlands
  2. 2.University Center for Human ValuesPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Sally Scholz
    • 1
  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentVillanova UniversityVillanovaUSA