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Anarchy, State, and Utopia by Robert Nozick

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Oxford : Basil Blackwell, 1974. Hardcover. 367 pages ; 24 cm. Foxing and price-clipped to dust jacket. Minor water damage to the bottom end of the rear cover cloth. Pages are unmarked and binding is firm.


ROBERT NOZICK'S Anarchy, state, and Utopia is an eagerly awaited work, widely discussed among philosophers long before its publication. For it is nothing less than a powerful, philosophical challenge to the most widely held political and social positions of our age—liberal, socialist, and conservative.

"Individuals have rights," writes Nozick in his opening sentence, "and there are things no person or group may do to them without violating their rights." The work that follows, striking for its wit, depth of insight, and skill of argument, is perhaps the most sophisticated defense of the minimal state" in contemporary thought.

The state is justified, says Nozick, only when it is severely limited to the narrow function of protection against force, theft, and fraud, and to the enforcement of contracts. Any more extensive activities by the state, as Nozick brilliantly demonstrates, will inevitably violate individuals' rights. Two noteworthy implications emerge which are then fully explored: "The state may not use its coercive apparatus for the purpose of getting some citizens to aid others, or in order to prohibit activities to people for their own good or protection."

Among the many achievements of this unusually rich work are an important new theory of distributive justice; a model of utopia which is favorable to utopian experimentation and which further supports the theory of the minimal state; and, finally, an integration of ethics, legal philosophy, and economic theory into a profound and unified position in political philosophy which will be discussed for years to come.