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Anarchy, State, and Utopia

by Robert Nozick

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1,823168,723 (3.69)23
In this brilliant and widely acclaimed book, winner of the 1975 National Book Award, Robert Nozick challenges the most commonly held political and social positions of our age--liberal, socialist, and conservative.

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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
  laplantelibrary | Dec 5, 2021 |
Very thoroughly elucidates the internal contradictions and general impossibility of anarchy and libertarianism. The style is atrocious and the structure very meandering but its still worth suffering through the waffling. ( )
  Paul_S | Dec 23, 2020 |
The minimal state treats us as inviolate individuals, who may not be used in certain ways by others as means or tools or instruments or resources; it treats us as persons having individual rights with the dignity this constitutes. Treating us with respect by respecting our rights, it allows us, individually or with whom we choose, to choose our life and to realize our ends and our conception of ourselves, insofar as we can, aided by the voluntary cooperation of other individuals possessing the same dignity.

While the book is rife with interesting and challenging theories that deserve careful consideration, it also suffers from Nozick's frustratingly abstruse writing style. Some of the arguments are marred by digressions, odd footnoting, and confusing formalizations. There were times when I wanted to throw the book against the wall, but I have to admit that I find myself thinking about the ideas it raised quite often. ( )
  drbrand | Jun 8, 2020 |
Nozick so fundamentally misreads Rawls that the majority of this book is worthless as a result. He makes two grievous errors: (1) he entirely ignores the first principle, which results in his failure to realize that fundamental individual rights and liberties are prior to the second principle (2) he reads the second principle as "maximizing the share of the least advantaged" instead of "once fair equality of opportunity is ensured, remaining inequalities should function as part of a scheme that benefits everyone, where benefiting everyone is measured by the most demanding standard of benefiting the least advantaged." He also makes a number of other errors that are just as fatal to his argument, for instance, reading Rawls as presenting a "patterned" theory rather than a theory of pure procedural justice. He misses the point of the heuristic of the original position. He assumes Rawls is opposed to any inequalities when the purpose of the second principle is precisely to explain how inequalities can be justified.

Nozick's own theory is also full of holes. For example, he does not explore rectification, which by his own admission is a critical precursor to any society based on his entitlement theory, since no existing society can claim all property is held according to Nozick's principles of justice in holdings. He relies heavily on a barely reconstructed Lockean conception of property without answering any of the objections to Locke. He assumes without argumentative justification that market efficiency is just. To his credit, Nozick admits some of these missing pieces throughout the book. However, there is simply not enough left over to present a persuasive justification of anything.

That said, this book IS useful as a foil for understanding Rawls better! Also, the descriptions of the way a state would come about in a state of nature through a market system in the beginning of the book is an interesting answer to anarchism.

P.S. You might get the impression that I agree with Rawls, based on this review. In fact, I do not agree with very much of what Rawls said. I just object to mischaracterizing his position so grotesquely. It's unfortunate that Nozick missed the opportunity to take down the original position as an analytic method and defend a contextual/historical conception of justice. ( )
1 vote brleach | Jan 26, 2015 |
Amazing book! Nozick's range of knowledge is amazing. He shows that a minimal state is reasonable (very well done and easy to follows). Similarly, he shows that a more advanced state does not reasonable follow. Utopia is another issues altogether and his writing certainly got me rethinking. A great book to make you think, reason and conclude. ( )
  MathMaverick | Jan 1, 2015 |
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In this brilliant and widely acclaimed book, winner of the 1975 National Book Award, Robert Nozick challenges the most commonly held political and social positions of our age--liberal, socialist, and conservative.

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