This is a past event
Beneski Earth Sciences Building, Paino Lecture Hall
  • Open to the Public

Jonny Thakkar, assistant professor of political science at Swarthmore College, will talk on "Socialism and Joint Action," on Thursday, Oct. 19.

Abstract: This paper suggests we conceive of socialism as a normative ideal that is multiply realizable at the institutional level as opposed to being tied to specific policies like state ownership and restriction of markets. My starting point is the theory presented by G.A. Cohen in Why Not Socialism?, according to which the appeal of socialist principles can be illustrated with the example of a camping trip. This argumentative strategy has been much criticized, but I believe we can rescue it so long as we grasp that the camping trip imagined by Cohen is a paradigm instance of joint action between equals, and that joint action of the relevant kind carries with it a particular normative structure according to which each participant has an obligation to play their part in advancing collective goals. Insofar as we can see economic life at large, and sociopolitical life more generally, as constituted by such joint action, we can see why the practical reasons that face participants in a camping trip might be relevant to those facing participants in a modern economy. In particular, both sets of people might need to play their parts in a scheme of cooperation aimed at facilitating the good life for all. Contra Cohen, however, this does not entail that participants in ordinary economic life must engage in “express” reciprocity, whereby we produce and exchange with each other’s needs in mind, since we might have good reason to organize large-scale cooperation differently from cooperation on a camping trip.

Sponsored by the Department of Philosophy and the Joseph Epstein Lecture Fund

For further information, please contact the Department of Philosophy's Interim ADC Dee Brace at (413) 542-5805.

Contact Info

Dee Brace
(413) 542-5805
Please call the college operator at 413-542-2000 or e-mail if you require contact info


Paino Lecture Hall (Beneski Building )