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Is Capitalist Utopia Noncompetitive? Jason Brennan’s Why Not Capitalism?

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Jason Brennan’s Why Not Capitalism? provides a direct response to G.A. Cohen’s moral defence of the value of socialism, arguing that, even under the utopian conditions Cohen specifies, capitalism would be recognized as the most attractive form of social organization. Yet, in one respect, Brennan’s account of utopia seems oddly out of keeping with the capitalist system it is taken to represent: the freedom of the characters within it seems almost totally untouched by the pressure of competitive market forces. I argue that this absence cannot be explained simply by an appeal to the positive intentions of utopian individuals as, even with such motivations in place, competition would still be unavoidable. This means that, even if we agree with Brennan that people would want a utopia in which they had the greatest possible scope to pursue their own personal plans, they may still have good reason to reject his capitalist ideal in favour of a system that would secure for them fair terms on which to compete.


I would like to thank Miriam Ronzoni and two anonymous referees for comments on previous versions of this article.


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Published Online: 2017-04-07
Published in Print: 2017-06-27

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