Gerald Allan "Jerry" Cohen, FBA (14 April 1941 – 5 August 2009) was a Marxist political philosopher who held the positions of Quain Professor of Jurisprudence, University College London and Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, All Souls College, Oxford. Born into a communist family in Montreal, Cohen was educated at McGill University, Canada (BA, philosophy and political science) and the University of Oxford (BPhil, philosophy) where he studied under Isaiah Berlin and Gilbert Ryle.

Cohen was assistant lecturer (1963–1964), lecturer (1964–1979) then reader (1979–1984) in the Department of Philosophy at University College London, before being appointed to the Chichele chair at Oxford in 1985. Several of his students, such as Alan Carter, Cécile Fabre, Will Kymlicka, John McMurtry, David Leopold, Michael Otsuka, Seana Shiffrin, Jonathan Wolff and Michael E. Rosen have gone on to be important moral and political philosophers in their own right.

Known as a proponent of Analytical Marxism and a founding member of the September Group, Cohen's 1978 work Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence defends an interpretation of Marx's historical materialism often referred to as 'technological determinism' by its critics.[1] In Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality, Cohen offers an extensive moral argument in favour of socialism, contrasting his views with those of John Rawls and Robert Nozick, by articulating an extensive critique of the Lockean principle of self-ownership as well as the use of that principle to defend right – as well as leftlibertarianism. In If You're an Egalitarian, How Come You're So Rich? (which covers the topic of his Gifford Lectures) Cohen addresses the question of what egalitarian political principles imply for the personal behaviour of those who subscribe to them.


Cohen was known for performing extended comic impersonations of philosophers for his friends.[2][3]


  • Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence (1978, 2000)
  • History, Labour, and Freedom (1988)
  • Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1995. ISBN 978-0-5214-7174-9. OCLC 612482692. 
  • If You're an Egalitarian, How Come You're So Rich? (2000)
  • Chapter in Dworkin and his Critics, with replies by Dworkin (2004)
  • Rescuing Justice and Equality (2008)
  • Why Not Socialism? (2009) [Trad. esp.: ¿Por qué no el socialismo?, Buenos Aires/Madrid, Katz editores, 2011, ISBN 978-84-92946-13-6]
  • On the Currency of Egalitarian Justice, and Other Essays in Political Philosophy (2011)
  • Finding Oneself in the Other (2012)
  • Lectures on the History of Moral and Political Philosophy (2013)


  1. ^ Singer, Peter (2000). Marx: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 105. ISBN 0-19-285405-4. 
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Further reading