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If, when he says, "We oughtn't rely on fear and greed to run our society", I almost want to give this ambitious little book an extra star for pluck for all it tries to do in so few pages. If, when he says, "We oughtn't rely on fear and greed to run our society", proponents of capitalism respond, "No, of course not.

Why Not Socialism? (sample) by G.A. Cohen

And our society isn't run that way," or "There is more to life than the market," proponents of capitalism say, "Yes, of course there is, and capitalism allows us to pursue it! One gets the feeling that he believes his interlocutors to be ignorant or evil, rather than in possession of valid and considered arguments. His understanding of the problems with comprehensive economic planning is refreshing, but he doesn't seem to have invested the time to understand how arguments against comprehensive planning apply also to market socialism and its derivatives, and his case for alternatives falls short.

Neither does he address the best arguments by critics of socialism of trying to apply the norms of intimate society, like the camping trip, to the great society in the way necessary for his proposals to extend community to replace self-interest. Of course, he doesn't have time to seriously argue practical concerns in a book so short, and Cohen's real project isn't to say that socialism is possible, but that it's desirable. That he brings up these practical considerations makes the book feel as though it bites off more than it can chew, though. It's a neat project, but in the end it falls short of what I think Cohen must have imagined he was creating.

Still, its brevity means that it doesn't hurt to give his attempt a read, especially as it's referenced by so many people.

View all 5 comments. Aug 11, Patrick rated it really liked it. An excellent little book, short enough to be read in a single sitting. It's almost a manifesto really, on how socialist values are really humanist valuesegalitarian valuesand how socialism is not easy to do, but is still worth trying. It emphasizes that capitalism is founded upon our two most base emotions: Greed, and fear. Gordon Gekko even said: "Greed is good. While acknowledging that these emotions are not going to disappear any time soon, Cohen focu An excellent little book, short enough to be read in a single sitting.

While acknowledging that these emotions are not going to disappear any time soon, Cohen focuses on other emotions, like devotion and compassion, which can lead us to a different kind of economic system, one which doesn't privilege a few at the expense of many. The books one shortcoming is its short length, which prevents really in-depth discussion about the more complicated issues involved in equality of opportunity and freedom of choice.

But at the same time, this short length has many advantages, and makes the book accessible to almost anyone. Buy this book and give it to a libertarian near you. May 11, Andrew added it Shelves: philosophy , political-philosophy , analytic-philosophy. The methodical techniques of analytical philosophy applied to the principles of socialism.

It's about as honest a text as you can find, and its thought experiments are more bluff and straightforward than provocative and daring. For someone like me who pretty much considers himself a straight-up socialist, it's not going to change my mind, it's just going to give me a little more debate ammo. But for a sort of American progressive type that is intrigued by socialist ideas if not totally won over, The methodical techniques of analytical philosophy applied to the principles of socialism. But for a sort of American progressive type that is intrigued by socialist ideas if not totally won over, I can imagine this being a transformative text.

Mar 06, Nativeabuse rated it really liked it. Cool little booklet about socialism, he demonstrates his ideas with an analogy to a camping trip that works really well. I'll probably find myself repeating the argument he puts forth here to people that I know because it is just so good. In summary he takes a camping trip ran on the principles of capitalism and contrasts it with a camping trip ran on the principles of socialism.

Then argues that clearly socialism is the nature way of life, and this analogy proves that the idea that free market c Cool little booklet about socialism, he demonstrates his ideas with an analogy to a camping trip that works really well. Then argues that clearly socialism is the nature way of life, and this analogy proves that the idea that free market capitalism is in any way the 'natural state of things' is not correct. Oct 16, Jon athan Nakapalau rated it it was amazing Shelves: philosophy , cultural-studies , favorites , sociology.

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A very good book that dissects Socialism to expose the muscle practice around the skeleton theory - the 'camping' example is excellent and is one of the best examinations I have ever read on this much discussed but little understood form of government. Nov 11, Shane Wagoner rated it really liked it. A well-written, systematic analysis of Cohen's socialist vision and its ethical justifications.

Why Not Socialism? by G. A. Cohen

Remarkably modest in its approach and clearly requesting a thoughtful reply, "Why Not Socialism? Mar 10, Colette rated it it was ok. Love the smallness of this book and the large and easy to read text.


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Part 1 enticed me, but the rest of the book fell off my interest scale. Jan 20, Bookshark rated it really liked it Shelves: theory , ethics , politics , economics , philosophy , nonfiction. A solid introductory, analytic defense of socialism - although not really groundbreaking if you are already in the Marxist camp. I'm looking forward to discussing this book with my students. Jan 16, Justin Evans rated it really liked it Shelves: philosophy. How many analytic philosophical journal articles deserve to be sold on their own as a book?

None, not even this one. On the other hand, it's a beautiful little object, and Cohen was such a wonderful human being, and so smart, that I'm happy to have contributed something to whoever he decided to leave his copy rights to. This won't convince anyone that socialism is plausible, or even that it's preferable, at least in the short term.

But perhaps some college kid somewhere will read it, and it will How many analytic philosophical journal articles deserve to be sold on their own as a book? But perhaps some college kid somewhere will read it, and it will slowly worm its way into his brain, and he'll become a slightly better person. Why is this high school essay available in hardback? It addresses nothing and I've learned nothing, even though I was practically a blank slate going in. Apr 25, Amy Rose rated it really liked it. This book was the perfect size; so little and cute and easy to hold.

A mere 82 pages it was a nice light read and a perfect little explanation of modern day socialism. Mar 09, Martyn rated it liked it Shelves: economics , politics , great-cover , philosophy , socialism , non-fiction , A slight book the principle purpose of which seems to be a pick me up for those who believe in some kind of socialist solution to our predicament.

It works on that level and certainly contains a couple of ideas that would be worth teasing out in a longer format, such as the differentiation between the ways that outwardly similar groups on the left bourgeois liberals, left liberals and socialists define and work toward solutions for inequality - in my experience many on "the left" have little t A slight book the principle purpose of which seems to be a pick me up for those who believe in some kind of socialist solution to our predicament.

It works on that level and certainly contains a couple of ideas that would be worth teasing out in a longer format, such as the differentiation between the ways that outwardly similar groups on the left bourgeois liberals, left liberals and socialists define and work toward solutions for inequality - in my experience many on "the left" have little to no grasp of these hugely important differences, let alone people from other political backgrounds. The second idea is put beautifully in the book and is the first time I've read it put so simply: that we've learned to harness human selfishness very efficiently, see for example every single economic transaction on the planet, but we've failed quite majestically to learn how to harness human generosity - if we could succeed at that then a new economic system would be in our grasp.

Otherwise I'm not convinced that the metaphor of the camping trip holds out, if only because Cohen doesn't deal with the worker value that would be needed just to get the campers to the campsite with their equipment in hand. I know he's shooting for a metaphor but there's a gap in the thinking in my opinion.

Also his conclusions about market socialism are a little reformist for my liking, although to be fair the author is certainly not recommending any one solution over another.

Worth reading because of the questions it raises rather than any answers it provides; it'll take you about an hour, why not give it go? Aug 12, Matej rated it liked it Shelves: political-philosophy.

Why Not Socialism? – By G. A. Cohen

We need more of this type of book. A simple read for at most a couple of hours, focusing on key principles and laying them out in an accessible fashion. A strong point of the book is that it pries away objections that are often run together, so that they can be met individually. Another good point is that Cohen recognizes that we do not have an answer to the problem of large-scale resource distribution in a socialist society at the moment though he points to some attempts.

The weakest point is We need more of this type of book. The weakest point is section III, supposedly arguing for the desirability of the socialist ideal - it contains no argument at all, even though this point is far from obvious to anyone who is not a socialist already.

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The book then ironically fails to answer the question in the title. A very short book that doesn't reach any earth-shaking conclusions. Not particularly engaging. An example of why novels are so much better than philosophy with its little thought experiments--in this case a camping trip. At least Plato had dialogue to engage readers.

Novels are sloppier but more complex psychologically, which is what is needed with this topic. Professor Cohen should write a novel on this theme or have someone write one for him. Of course, I'm being unfair by asking of this wor A very short book that doesn't reach any earth-shaking conclusions. Of course, I'm being unfair by asking of this work something that the genre just doesn't do. Jan 25, Stephen Rhodes rated it it was ok. Honestly, the author of this short book tries to explain socialism using familiar and simple metaphors, but his writing style is far from simple.

It ultimately fails to do what it set out to do which is to explain socialism in a plain and understandable way. Needless to say, I found it disappointing. Feb 06, Nathan Courtright rated it it was amazing.