this can ground objecting to them on the basis of justice. For a development of this thought see Gilabert, P. (2012). ‘Cohen on Socialism, Equality and Community.’ Socialist Studies , 8(1).
Penultimate Draft. Please Cite Final Version 3 This paper will focus on the first of these arguments. Chad Van Schoelandt has criticized this argument for presupposing a conception of community that is antithetical to pluralism. 6 Similarly, Richard Miller, while sympathetic to Cohen’s project, claims that this argument rests on a conception of community that is at odds with the value of separateness. 7 In this paper I will defend Cohen’s argument against these objections. I will start by explaining Cohen’s argument and both Van Schoelandt’s and Miller’s objections to it. I will then show that these objections rest upon a shared misreading of Cohen’s argument. I will finish by responding to some objections that might be raised against the correct reading of Cohen’s argument. 1. Cohen’s Community-based Argument Against Markets Cohen’s aim is to show that market generated inequalities are community undermining. This Cohen, claims, is the case even under conditions of socialist equality of opportunity, where differences in outcome do not reflect natural and social capacities but only differences in taste and choice. 8 As Cohen points out, a society with this form of equality of opportunity might still face three kinds of inequality. 6 Van Schoelandt, C. (2014). ‘Markets, Community, and Pluralism’. Van Schoelandt also criticizes Cohen’s argument that markets encourage repugnant motivations, as does Jason Brennan (2014) Why Not Capitalism (London: Routledge), 141–148. I will not investigate these criticisms here as my goal is only to defend Cohen’s community objection to inequality. 7 R. W. Miller (2010). ‘Relationships of Equality: A Camping Trip Revisited.’ Journal of Ethics 14 (3-4): p.252. 8 Why Not Socialism?, p.18.
Penultimate Draft. Please Cite Final Version 4 First, people may possess differing levels of certain kinds of goods. 9 Suppose we are presented with a table laden with apples and oranges. Everyone is given the opportunity to take six pieces of fruit. Clearly, those who take five apples and one orange will have more apples than those who take three of each fruit. Cohen claims that this form of inequality is unproblematic, as although there is inequality in the distribution of some good there is no inequality in the distribution of benefits. 10 The second form of inequality is that which results from regrettable choices that people have made. 11 To return to the previous example, suppose that some people eat the fruit on the day they get it and the others decide to save it. However, by the time the second group get round to eating the fruit, it has spoilt. In this case, the second group suffers from an inequality of benefit as a result of the poor choices that they have made. Those who did not eat the fruit immediately will no doubt regret the choice that they have made. Cohen does not find this form of inequality particularly