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Mitchell Cohen

Position: Professor
Campus Affiliation: Baruch College
E-mail: Mitchell.Cohen@baruch.cuny.edu
Degrees/Diplomas: PhD Columbia University
Research Interests: Political Theory
Prof. Cohen is also co-editor emeritus of DISSENT magazine. He is the author of The Politics of Opera: A History from Monteverdi to Mozart (Princeton University Press, 2017)  The Wager of Lucien Goldmann.   Princeton Univ. Press, 1994;  and Zion and State.  Columbia Univ. Press,  (in French translation, Editions la Decouverte, 19912; new edition 2014). He edited Princeton Readings in Political Thought (2nd edition, Princeton Univ. Press, 2018; and edited Rebels and Reactionaries: An Anthology of Political Short Stories from Hawthorne through Today. Laurel, 1992.   Prof. Cohen is a Fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU and has been a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies, Princeton. He has guest-lectured at Stanford, Harvard, Oxford, the Paris Institute of Politics, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, and the American University of Paris. He has written for numerous scholarly and intellectual journals including Les Temps modernesTimes Literary Supplement (London), New York Times Book Review, and German Politics and Society.  He was “Correspondant Americain” of Raisons politiques: Etudes de Pensee politique and is a member of the editorial board of “Jewish Social Studies.”
Prof. Cohen’s recent book, The Politics of Opera,  won the Prose Award for Music of the Association of American Publishers and Baruch College’s Presidential Achievement Award for Excellence in Scholarship. It was named one of the best books of 2017 in the London Evening Standard.

Books

Mitchell Cohen, The Politics of Opera: A History from Monteverdi to Mozart (Princeton Univ. Press, 2017)         
The Politics for Opera looks at the relation between political ideas and opera from the birth of opera in the late Reneaissance though the era of the French Revolution. Cohen asks how operas have conveyed the politics of the times. Delving into European  history and thought and an array of music by greats such as Monteverdi, Lully, Rameau and Mozart, the book reveals how politics — through story lines, symbols, harmonies, suggestions, and motifs — played an important role, both robust and sotto voce. Political theorists like Machiavelli, Fenelon and Rousseau play important roles.
Mitchell Cohen, ed. Princeton Readings in Political Thought: Essential Readings from Plato to Populism, new edition (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2018).
Princeton Readings in Political Thought is one of the most engaging and up-to-date samplers of the standard works of Western political thinking from antiquity through modern times. Organized chronologically, from Thucydides and Plato to Foucault and Rawls, the book brings together selections of enduring intellectual value – key articles, book excerpts, essays, and speeches – that have shaped our understanding of society and politics. Readers will find this work to be an invaluable reference, and they will enjoy not only the varied selections but also the lucid introductions to each historical era and the brief sketches of each thinker.
Mitchell Cohen, The Wager of Lucien Goldmann (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1994).
In The Wager of Lucien Goldmann, Mitchell Cohen provides the first full-length study of this major figure of postwar French intellectual life and champion of socialist humanism. While many Parisian leftists staunchly upheld Marxism’s “scientificity” in the 1950s and 1960s, Lucien Goldmann insisted that Marxism was by then in severe crisis and had to reinvent itself radically if it were to survive. He rejected the traditional Marxist view of the proletariat and contested the structuralist and antihumanist theorizing that infected French left-wing circles in the tumultuous 1960s. In fact, the popularity of such trends in the Left Bank was one reason why Goldmann’s own name and work were eclipsed – this despite the acclaim of thinkers as diverse as Jean Piaget and Alasdair MacIntyre, who called him “the finest and most intelligent Marxist of the age.” As Cohen shows in this brilliant reconstruction of Goldmann’s life and thought, he was a socialist who, unlike many others of his time, refused to portray his aspirations for humanity’s future as an inexorable unfolding of history’s laws, but saw them rather as a wager akin to Pascal’s in the existence of God. “Risk,” Goldmann wrote in his classic study of Pascal and Racine, The Hidden God, “possibility of failure, hope of success, and the synthesis of the three in a faith which is a wager are the essential constituent elements of the human condition.” In The Wager of Lucien Goldmann, Cohen retrieves Goldmann’s achievement – his “genetic structuralist” method, his sociology of literature, his libertarian socialist politics.
Mitchell Cohen, Rebels and Reactionaries: An Anthology of Great Political Short Stories from Hawthorne through Today (Laurel 1992)          
In The Wager of Lucien Goldmann, Mitchell Cohen provides the first full-length study of this major figure of postwar French intellectual life and champion of socialist humanism. While many Parisian leftists staunchly upheld Marxism’s “scientificity” in the 1950s and 1960s, Lucien Goldmann insisted that Marxism was by then in severe crisis and had to reinvent itself radically if it were to survive. He rejected the traditional Marxist view of the proletariat and contested the structuralist and antihumanist theorizing that infected French left-wing circles in the tumultuous 1960s. In fact, the popularity of such trends in the Left Bank was one reason why Goldmann’s own name and work were eclipsed – this despite the acclaim of thinkers as diverse as Jean Piaget and Alasdair MacIntyre, who called him “the finest and most intelligent Marxist of the age.” As Cohen shows in this brilliant reconstruction of Goldmann’s life and thought, he was a socialist who, unlike many others of his time, refused to portray his aspirations for humanity’s future as an inexorable unfolding of history’s laws, but saw them rather as a wager akin to Pascal’s in the existence of God. “Risk,” Goldmann wrote in his classic study of Pascal and Racine, The Hidden God, “possibility of failure, hope of success, and the synthesis of the three in a faith which is a wager are the essential constituent elements of the human condition.” In The Wager of Lucien Goldmann, Cohen retrieves Goldmann’s achievement – his “genetic structuralist” method, his sociology of literature, his libertarian socialist politics.
cohen_zionandstateMitchell Cohen, Zion and State: Nation, Class, and the Shaping of Modern Israel (New York: Columbia University Press 1992). 
This study explores the struggle between left-and right-wing factions within the Zionist movement, tracing the emergence of modern Jewish nationalism from its origins in the mid-19th century, through the vision of Theodor Herzl, and up to the first 15 years of Israeli statehood. Concentrating on the 1920s and 1930s, Mitchell Cohen discusses the victory of the Zionist Labour movement over the right-wing revisionists, and shows how the growing dominance of Labour in the 1930s made the birth of the Jewish state possible. He shows how Labour’s long-term policies were self-defeating, helping to foster a political culture that was more open to individuals on the right, such as Menachem Begin, and made it vulnerable to the more strident nationalism of the 1970s. When the Israel Workers’ Party could not win a plurality in the World Jewish Congress after 1933, it formed coalitions with religious and bourgeois parties, which transformed it into a party that considered class, nation and state as separate entities.
cohen_zionandstateMitchell Cohen, Zion and State: Nation, Class, and the Shaping of Modern Israel (Du rêve sioniste à la réalité israélienne – French Version) (1st edition of this book was published by Éditions La Découverte in 1990.). 
This book is an essential contribution to the political understanding of modern Israel. It presents an original historical analysis of the struggle between left and right within the Zionist movement and the Hebrew state.  Mitchell Cohen devotes lengthy developments to the political conflicts of the 1920s and 1930s, marked by the decisive victory of Zionist labor led by David Ben Gurion, on the right wing of the “revisionists” led by Vladimir Jabotinsky.
It shows how the growing influence of Labor and their program of “revolutionary constructivism” within the Zionist movement made possible the birth of the State of Israel. But he also explains that the roots of Labor’s failure in the 1970s plunge into the very conditions of their victory four decades ago.  It is undoubtedly the most detailed study of the internal dynamics of the Zionist movement: the ideology of its various currents is carefully dissected, and the author paints a fascinating portrait of the personalities who animated them, first and foremost Ben Gurion and Jabotinsky.
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