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 is a substantive thesis, originally elaborated in Marx (1977 ), 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,...
- Cohen GA (1978) Karl Marx’s theory of history: a defence. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
- Cohen J (1982) Review of Karl Marx’s theory of history. J Philos 44:253–273Google Scholar
- Cohen GA (1988) History, labour, and freedom. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Cohen GA (1989b) David Miller on distributive justice and market socialism. mimeoGoogle Scholar
- Cohen GA (2000) If you’re an egalitarian, how come you’re so rich? Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
- Cohen GA (2009) Why not socialism? Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
- Levine A, Wright EO (1980) Rationality and class struggle. New Left Rev 123:47–68Google Scholar
- Marx K (1977)  Contribution to a critique of political economy. Progress Publishers, MoscowGoogle Scholar
- Nozick R (1974) Anarchy, state and utopia. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Okin SM (1991) Justice, gender, and the family. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Rawls J (1971) A theory of justice. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
- Vrousalis N (2015) The political philosophy of G. A. Cohen. Bloomsbury, LondonGoogle Scholar