Pablo Gilabert on “Cohen on Socialism, Equality, and Community” (April 28 at Columbia) Reply

Just passing this along from an email I received this morning–Gilabert seems to have an interestingly nuanced perspective on these issues…

The Columbia University Seminar on Political Economy and Contemporary Social Issues invites you to a talk and discussion with

PABLO GILABERT on “Cohen on Socialism, Equality, and Community.”

The talk will take place on Thursday, April 28th, in the Columbia International Affairs Building, room 1510 at 7:30 p.m.

You are also invited to join us for (optional) dinner at the Faculty House at 6:15 before the talk. Please email your dinner reservation to

About the talk:

Is socialism a desirable ideal? What principles ground it? In his last book, Why Not Socialism? G. A. Cohen argues that the socialist ideal is indeed desirable, that we have reason to favor the general implementation of the principles of radical equality of opportunity and community on which it relies. Cohen also considers the issue of the feasibility of socialism.  His agnostic conclusion on this issue is that we do not now know whether socialism is feasible or infeasible, although we can realistically envisage multiple partial approximations and instantiations of its demands. In this talk, Gilabert will focus on Cohen’s discussion on desirability. Although sympathetic to Cohen’s contribution, Gilabert identifies what he takes to be some problems in it and suggests ways to overcome them. He challenges Cohen’s claim that although the principle of radical equality of opportunity is a principle of justice, the principle of community is only a wider moral requirement. He argues that to fully account for the role and weight of considerations of community within the socialist ideal, and to justify the limitations on liberty that they would impose in practice, we have reason to see some of them as more stringent demands of justice. More specifically, he proposes a construal of some of the demands of community as focused on sufficientarian concerns with basic needs and on requirements to protect equal political status and self-respect, and explains how, so construed, the demands of community relate to demands of equality of economic opportunity and to the protection of personal and political liberty.

About the speaker: 

A native of Argentina, Pablo Gilabert is an associate professor of Philosophy at Concordia University, Montreal. He has been an HLA Hart Visiting Fellow at the University of Oxford, a DAAD Fellow at the University of Frankfurt, and a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University. In 2011-12 he will be Laurence S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Center for Human Values at Princeton University. His papers appeared in journals such as The Journal of Political Philosophy, Political Theory, The Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophical Studies, Kant-Studien, The Monist, Social Theory and Practice, and Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, among others. His book From Global Poverty to Global Equality: A Philosophical Exploration, is under contract with Oxford University Press.
Please feel free to forward this email to interested friends and colleagues.

The Columbia Seminar on Political Economy and Contemporary Social Issues was founded in 1971 by Sidney Morgenbesser and Seymour Melman as the Seminar on the Political Economy of War and Peace. It focuses on issues of contemporary concern from interdisciplinary perspectives, integrating philosophy, political theory, and economics. The co-chairs of the Seminar are Carol Gould, Phil Green, and Gary Mongiovi.

Columbia University encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. University Seminar participants with disabilities who anticipate needing accommodations or who have questions about physical access may contact the Office of Disability Services at212-854-2388 or  Disability accommodations, including sign-language interpreters, are available on request.

Requests for accommodations must be made two weeks in advance.  On campus, Seminar participants with disabilities should alert a Public Safety Officer that they need assistance accessing campus.

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