Mitchell Cohen

Position: Professor
Campus Affiliation: Baruch College
Degrees/Diplomas: PhD Columbia University
Research Interests: European political thought

Prof. Cohen is also a co-editor of DISSENT magazine. He is the author of The Wager of Lucien Goldmann.   Princeton Univ. Press, 1994;  and Zion and State.  Columbia Univ. Press, 1992 (in French translation, Editions la Decouverte). He co-edited Princeton Readings in Political Thought.  Princeton Univ. Press, 1996; 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 modernes, Times Literary Supplement (London), New York Times Book Review, and German Politics and Society.  He is “Correspondant Americain” of Raisons politiques: Etudes de Pensee politique and is a member of the editorial board of “Jewish Social Studies.”


Mitchell Cohen and Nicole Fermon eds., Princeton Readings in Political Thought (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1996).

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 to Foucault, the book brings together forty-four selections of enduring intellectual value – key articles, book excerpts, essays, and speeches – that have shaped our understanding of Western 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.

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.

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