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on 31 August 2010
The late great thinker G.A. Cohen advocates again, this time in only 82 pages, for a better society in which the principle of community can temper the principle of equality, avoiding the inequalities that the last one always produces in the outcome. It is beautifully written, though sometimes not a very easy read. But this is a profound philosophical essay, not another silly little self-help book. I found it illuminating, wise and, above all, very moving.
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VINE VOICEon 14 January 2010
The author provides much to think about: definitions of both socialism and the terms in which that definition is couched, a well thought through allegory of socialism in action, and a critique of what is wrong with the market economy.

The book's argument is essentially that the answer to the titular question lies in the practical aspects of implementation rather than the desirability of the outcome. However the best that Cohen can offer here is the observation that just because we don't know how to do something now doesn't prove that we shall never know. True of course, but doesn't take one much further forward.
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on 24 December 2014
This is a manifesto as to the desirability and feasibility of a socialist ethic of equality and community, and is rather successful and clear-minded in these terms: through argument from intuition - of what we might value in a camping trip - it captures the ecumenical aspirations of socialists, and while convinced of the desirability of the instantiation of these ethical precepts in our society, Cohen is lucid of the serious obstacles as to the feasibility of any such instantiation. There exist feasible accounts of market socialism among Cohen's fellow so-called analytic Marxists, but such is a half-way house imperfectly rendering equality and community; a social design and technology capable of fully capturing those precepts is presently (and only presently) withstanding. One must admire this candid but lingeringly optimistic concession.

The crisp force of Cohen's exposition is, without doubt, a marvel in its own right, and embodies the best virtues of analytic philosophy. It endows what is effectively a pocket manifesto with disarming weight and, for this brevity and elegance, makes accessible a commonly rarefied discussion. This book exceeds the shoes and warrants the historical stature of the work to which its title alludes: Albert Einstein's 1949 Monthly Review essay `Why Socialism?' It should be celebrated.
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on 24 January 2011
This book raises many questions, but fails to answer any. Cohen offers a few stimulating ideas, but drowns them in over-explaining. I get the impression the author has conviction in his beliefs but lacks the talent to successfully put his case across in writing. Cohen attempts to use over-simplified analogies to justify his political opinion (and fails). The book is OK... but it is just that.

And to add context to this review, I am a self-defined socialist.
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on 31 October 2009
A timely look at how we can improve everyone's lives, well maybe not the bankers and the politicians who seem to be doing just fine.
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on 24 February 2015
Excellent, concise and very accessible
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on 17 August 2010
Very brief, occasionally descends into the kind of language that philosophers seem to like (lots of lists of alternatives, heavy stacks for qualifiers and double negatives), not very impressive. I can't imagine who this is designed to convince - it certainly wouldn't have much impact on any opponents of socialism, or on an unaligned but open young person.

And at this price for about seventy tiny pages of actual text, it seems to answer its own question - because capitalism offers such fabulous opportunities to exploit the gullible.
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on 22 October 2014
good book
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on 29 March 2014
got it and not read it but i dowt that it a bad read cos am sure my friend will like it.
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on 19 October 2010
This is an incredible book - incredibly illogical and dishonest. The basic argument is that people are capable of altruism and generosity - therefore we should adopt socialism.

The fundamental basis of the argument is voluntary generosity in small communities. The author shows how people behave voluntarily "like socialists" when they share things on camping trips and the like. But somehow he seems incapable of seeing the difference between voluntary generosity in a small community such as friendship and family, and coerced sharing of everything under political authority. The argument is emotionally appealing but intellectually absurd.

The book is also deeply dishonest, because the author pretends that socialism has never been tried, as if it were just a nice theory that was never put into practice. Cohn does not even attempt to show that Soviet Union, DDR, Communist China, North Korea, Cuba, and many other disastrous and inhumane "experiments" did not conform to his own vision of socialism. He simply does not mention them at all.

Was the book really written in 2009? Did the author live through the 20th century? This stuff is not uplifting, it is disgusting.
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