Joshua Cohen’s popular course Justice covers more than political philosophy and its application to current issues such as health care, school funding, and campaign finance. In his class, the Stanford professor of political science, philosophy, and law also conveys the fundamental conviction that guides his work: In a well-functioning democracy, people must be able to argue in a mutually respectful manner about fundamental issues of law and policy in society.
A political theorist trained in philosophy, Cohen is particularly interested in issues at the intersection of democratic norms and institutions. He has written extensively on democratic theory—particularly deliberative democracy and its implications for personal liberty, freedom of expression, and political equality.
Cohen’s current scholarship focuses on topics related to justice. He runs Stanford’s Program on Global Justice, and he helps lead the Program on Liberation Technology, which explores how electronic tools from cell phones to GPS can be used to empower the poor, improve governance, and promote economic development.
His belief that democracy depends on public discussion extends beyond the classroom and his own research. For the last 20 years, Cohen has served as the co-editor of the Boston Review, a bimonthly magazine of political, cultural, and literary ideas.