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Robert Nozick (1938-2002) was American philosopher, best known for
his rigorous defense of libertarianism in his first major work, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974).
During his high school and college years, Nozick was a member of the
student new left and an enthusiastic socialist. At Columbia, he helped
to found a campus branch of the league for industrial democracy, a
precursor of the students for a democratic society. While in graduate
school he read works by libertarian thinkers such as F. A. Hayak and
Ludwig Von Mises, and his political views began to change. His
conversion to libertarianism culminated in 1974 with the publication of Anarchy, State, and Utopia,
a closely argued and highly original defense of the libertarian
“minimal state” and a critique of the social-democratic liberalism of
The main body of this work falls into four parts; firstly the
underpinning (if any) and the character and robustness of the moral
rights that constitute the basic normative framework for most of Anarchy, State and Utopia.
Secondly, the character and degree of success of Nozick’s defense of
the minimal state against the charge by the individualist anarchist that
“the state itself is intrinsically immoral”. Thirdly, Nozick’s
articulation and defense of his historical entitlement doctrine of
justice in holdings and his associated critique of end-state and
patterned doctrines of distributive justice, especially John Rawls’
difference principle (as defended in a theory of justice) and fourthly
Nozick’s argument that utopian aspirations provide a complementary route
to the vindication of the minimal state.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Nozick’s natural rights – particularly the right of self-ownership
and the consequent right to the fruit’s of one’s labour present an
obvious problems if we desire any state at all, no matter how minimal.