Is the Personal Political?
This is a slightly revised version of remarks I presented in April at a Political Studies Association Roundtable in Manchester, England, on G. A. Cohen’s book If You’re an Egalitarian, How Come You’re So Rich? (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2000). The roundtable discussants focussed exclusively on the last three chapters of the book. The general theme of the book is the relation between political ideologies and the choices that shape a person’s life. The earlier chapters contain Cohen’s personal and philosophical reflections on the influence of his Communist upbringing and essays on Hegel and Marx. The first two of the last three chapters offer a critique from the left of John Rawls’s justification of incomemaximizing behaviour on the part of the talented that gives rise to inequalities that are to the benefit of the least well off. There Cohen argues that ‘egalitarian justice is not only, as Rawlsian liberalism teaches, a matter of rules that define the structure of society, but also a matter of personal attitude and choice’. The last chapter contains a response to the arguments of philosophers such as Thomas Nagel and Ronald Dworkin that wealthy egalitarians do not have extensive obligations to bring about a more egalitarian society through acts of private charity.Article (English translation of an Italian publication)
Otsuka, Michael (2001) Is the Personal Political?
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