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Anarchy, State, and Utopia

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  2,681 ratings  ·  100 reviews
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.
Paperback, 384 pages
Published November 11th 1977 by Basic Books (first published 1974)
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Hadrian
Anarchy, State, and Utopia is a philosophical approach to a libertarian conception of society, where the state takes on only the barest minimum of functions, such as enforcement of contractual agreements. His chief aim in expounding this theory is the maximum capacity of rational actors to do as they choose. However tempting such an idea is, Nozick's self-contradictory approach is seriously flawed in an economic sense, where the theory's broad promises dissolve upon contact with reality like a p ...more
Chris Meyers
ASU is a classic work of political philosophy and is widely considered to be the definitive text defending libertarian political theory, which claims that the only justifiable form of political society is one with minimal government and laissez-faire economic system. The proper role of the state is only to protect the basic (negative) rights of life, liberty, and property. Any other goods or services should be provided by private actions (business or donations), and any redistribution of wealth ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 09, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Philosophy Majors with Course Work in Symbolic Logic
This is a work of political philosophy arguing for minimal government, the libertarian counterpart and answer to the liberal John Rawls' A Theory of Justice. This is as far from a popular treatment of the subject (such as say Ayn Rand or the like) as you can get. In other words, yes, this is the work of a professional academic, a Harvard professor of philosophy who wrote the kind of rigorous book used in graduate studies--it even won the National Book Award. It's respectable. But dear God, it ma ...more
Asher
Robert Nozick presents an extreme logical book that is unquestionably the personification of analytical thought. Yet he writes in the preface that he does not necessary believe he is completely correct, he doubts himself. Nozick critiques philosophers like Marx and Foucault who view their work as flawless. This mood makes you want to read his book.
But in the preface he also tells the reader that even though he will base his claims on the viewpoint that all individuals have natural rights, he
...more
Rachel
I wish more libertarians would actually read this book and acknowledge that this is not a road map for policy making or even directly transferable to a non-hypothetical world. Nozick makes a powerful case against re-distribution, but even he points out that his theory only works where distribution has not been unjustly accomplished in the first place. I don't fault him for failing to propose a solution to this conundrum, because he doesn't purport to do so and correctly states that it is for eac ...more
Patrick Peterson
The first 40-50 pages were almost unreadable. A few clear statements surrounded by almost impossible to understand or follow statements that just did not seem well connected or to logically prove anything.

I was actually very disappointed, since I had heard so many positive things about the book for over 35 years. I even had some positive memories of when I read some of it about 30 years ago.

Our South Bay Libertarian Book Club discussed the first part last Sunday and almost everyone had similar c
...more
Rui Baptista
Nozick was a philosopher-for-rent. His theories were built on demand to provide justification for an increasingly unequal society where the richest few control all decisions and accumulate more and more wealth, and the poor wither. The reader is expected to believe that this is how it should be.
If Nozick was smart, he was not honest. If he was honest, he certainly was not smart.
Nick
Five stars. Nozick's style is great. He just loves to fool around with various ideas. Most of his conclusions are more like "it seems like logic is suggestive of X" statements. Yet he is also a very formal and dense writer (I don't see these as negatives, especially in this case). He also puts in so many caveats that even his offensive conclusions are not so offensive.
Robbie Leslie
This book had a huge impact on me when I read it at the age of 22 as a post-grad student of political philosophy. It is really only know, at the age of 44, that I realise quite how much Bob Nozick's master-work has shaped my thinking on the state, politics and society over the past 22 years.
I came to the book with preconceptions - Nozick was neo-liberal and Hayekian. I was neither. I was a committed socialist with anarchist leanings (a huge dichotomy there which I didn't see at the time!) and de
...more
JP
This is an extremely heavy piece of libertarian political philosophy. Nozick proves through moral logic (including plenty of propositions and equations) that the minimal libertarian state is the single desirable and natural end-state, that anything beyond that is immoral, and that the only utopian option suitable for diverse mankind, is only possible based on this state. His work includes many of the arguments I've considered over the years (the possibiliy of private owners trapping someone by s ...more
Mark
Nozick is well-known in political philosophy circles, and has much to offer. Taken together with the writings of John Stuart Mill, Rawls, and maybe Chomsky, it is a good source of what many believe to be a modern movement in politics.

Before embarking on meaningless political rhetoric with those who would have you believe that they "have the answer", I would propose reading Nozick. Many Libertarian policies and beliefs have their basis either directly or indirectly with some of Nozick's proposit
...more
Todd Decker
This is one of the most interesting books on the philosophy of government I have ever read. I would say his most convincing arguments are in Part II where he explains why the minimal state is the most extensive state that can be justified. His discription of destributive justice is particularly fascinating. Part I of the book explains why the minimal state itself can be justified and form spontaneously without violating anyone's rights via coersion. While I agree with his conclusion that a minim ...more
Adam
While this book did force me--as uninformed about basic political and economic principles as I am--to reconsider some of my assumptions about legislation and society in general, overall it was a pretty dreadful reading experience. Nozick lurches in and out of both relevance and comprehensibility, occasionally making an interesting point but more often than not drowning in his own verbosity. Only read this if you're interested in pursuing government or economics professionally... Otherwise, I sus ...more
Tom
I couldn't even get through two chapters of this philosophical house of cards on quicksand. Nozick makes ridiculous prior assumptions, including the absolutely idiotic notion of "natural rights". By the time I got to the "experience machine" thought experiment and realized almost every single one of his objections was wrong, I knew I had to put the book down and stop wasting time with this fool's work.

If this is the sort of thing that most libertarians base their politics on, I really need to st
...more
Josh Paul
One of the very few philosophy books I ever had a hard time putting down. Nozick is just so damn enjoyable to disagree with. Every page has at least a dozen logical errors or horrible philosophical mistakes. In fact the entire method he uses to build his argument is pretty obviously, and glaringly, flawed. But AS&U is a lark to read. Philosophically the strongest part of the book is probably his critique of Rawls (pt. 3, I think), which actually does bring out some significant issues for Joh ...more
Ginan Aulia Rahman
Susah sekali untuk membantah argumentasi filsafat analitis yang efektif dan ketat. Sangat sulit untuk tidak menganggukan kepala pada pemikiran si Robert Nozick ini.

Manusia memiliki hak asasi. Untuk melindungi hak asasi terbentuklah sebuah asosiasi tanpa sengaja bernama negara. Nozick menolak argumentasi kontrak sosial. Dia setuju pada argumentasi hidden hand yang menggerakan sosial, ekonomi, bahkan negara. Gile banget gak tuh? Chaos!

Robert Nozick mendukung negara minimal. Negara jangan punya hak
...more
Brian
Much is said already about this book, so I'll try to be brief.

First of all, this book is at times quite funny . Yes, Nozick easily loses his readers in his symbolic logic. But when he starts on one of his examples, his sarcasm and sense of humor can make the reading very interesting.

Second, he is explicit about his intention of using Locke's State of Nature. He recognizes that what some have called Nozick's "immaculate conception of the state" is not and cannot be real or actualized. Rather, he
...more
Athan Tolis
This is NOT light reading. Then again, it's a philosophy book, and nobody obliged me to read it. I kept reminding myself of this every time I had to re-read a paragraph for the third time before giving up on understanding it.

So there you have it, I fully admit that whole sections of this book went over my head. But I'm glad I read it. Well, I'm not glad I read Chapter 1, which is entitled "Why State-of-Nature Theory?" I would have understood exactly as much of it if it had been written in Sanskr
...more
Elle
Nozick makes a case for a nightwatchman state, trying to show how it would inevitably arise from the state of nature in a way that no anarchist could object to. An interesting and sometimes entertaining effort, if not a persuasive one.
V.
Nozick: not one to let the actual views of his philosophical opponents (or, for that matter, *any* empirical facts) get in the way of a zingy refutation.
Eric
Even if you think, as I do, that libertarians are crackpots, this is a very thoughtful piece of political philosophy.
Christopher Roberts
Nozick's book is more readable than Rawl's A Theory of Justice but it is filled with incredibly bad arguments.

1. Nozick returns to the state of nature and argues that a minimal state is inevitable. After that things get bad.

2. His PA system argument isn't even really an argument. He basically says, "yeah I like the benefits of living in society, but I'm a dick so I don't want to pay for it."

3. The famous "Wilt Chamberlin" argument falls apart once you expand the concept even a little further
...more
Craig
A great work of American philosophy.
Wersly
What a labor to read. Nozick uses analytic/mathematical philosophy to prove that the only morally-justified kind of state is an 'ultraminimal' state, similar to that of the Lockean state. At times, Nozick's thinking is playful and interesting, but it tends to become mind-meltingly brutal and difficult to read when the dude spends some 20-ish pages using mathematical logical and all sorts of abstractions to discuss 'end-state distributions,' and payment policies towards 'protective associations.' ...more
Victor Wu
More like 4.5 stars. 5 stars for style, 4 stars for argument. In brief, ASU was one of the most engaging works of philosophy I have yet read, very methodically and clearly argued with a refreshing sense of humor and narrative (I found myself writing "LOL" in the margins several times). The occasional use of symbolic logic did make reading those sections a little more dry, and Ch. 5 in particular I found tedious, but overall ASU was very enjoyable and enlightening to read. As Thomas Nagel says in ...more
Ari
I had always heard this described as a libertarian classic. It wasn't at all what I expected. I had expected polemic, and instead it was highly abstract philosophical argument, in some places quite technical.

Many of the arguments in it aren't particularly new -- Nozick is explicitly trying to give a longer more modern justification of government on Lockean grounds. The rebuttal to utilitarian and Rawlsian views seemed both spirited and effective, however, and I hadn't seen them as well argued an
...more
David
This book has been on my reading list for a while and I finally got around to reading it this summer. It is an amazing book that will make you think and trigger further thought and hopefully research on these topics. The book is no easy read and I would recommend a solid understanding in formal logic before beginning this one. My favorite is “Logic” by Gordon H. Clark. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30...

Nozick makes liberal use of formal logic to develop and justify his points. He often use
...more
Brittany
Oct 10, 2013 Brittany rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who want to practice tearing down shitty arguments and test their understanding of Rawls
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 ...more
Pedro
The author argues that the minimum state offering only protection services to the citizens is the only one that is justified, that any state bigger than that is not justified and proposes an utopia based on the liberal approach applied to communities instead of individuals.
The arguments in the two first parts are very debatable, may are even ridiculous, but some of them are interesting and offer food for thought. Among others, the chapters that refer to Rawl's theory of justice and the one analy
...more
Reese Faust
I first read this subsequently to John Rawls' "A Theory of Justice", which may or may not be a mistake. It may not be a mistake in that it gives a strong counter-argument to Rawls' arguments, and it was, in fact, written in reply to "A Theory of Justice". However, it may have been a mistake, in that Nozick's arguments are very appealing in a society where capitalist ethics have taken strong root; as such, there is a risk that one may allow sentiment (or ego) to subsume a cool understanding of No ...more
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Robert Nozick was an American philosopher and professor at Harvard University. He was educated at Columbia (A.B. 1959, summa cum laude), where he studied with Sidney Morgenbesser, at Princeton (Ph.D. 1963), and Oxford as a Fulbright Scholar. He was a prominent American political philosopher in the 1970s and 1980s. He did additional but less influential work in such subjects as decision theory and ...more
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“If D1 was a just distribution, and people voluntarily moved from it to D2, transferring parts of their shares they were given under D1 (what was it for if not to do something with?), isn't D2 also just? If the people were entitled to dispose of the resources to which they were entitled (under D1), didn't this include their being entitled to give it to, or exchange it with, Wilt Chamberlain? Can anyone else complain on grounds of justice? Each other person already has his legitimate share under D1. Under D1, there is nothing that anyone has that anyone else has a claim of justice against. After someone transfers something to Wilt Chamberlain, third parties still have their legitimate shares; their shares are not changed. By what process could such a transfer among two persons give rise to a legitimate claim of distributive justice on a portion of what was transferred, by a third party who had no claim of justice on any holding of the others before the transfer?” 5 likes
“There is room for words on subjects other than last words.” 4 likes
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