Customer Reviews


20 Reviews
5 star:
 (12)
4 star:
 (3)
3 star:
 (2)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:
 (3)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Libertarian, or Property-tarian?
Robert Nozick argues from the (Kantian) principle that nothing and nobody can use an individual as a means rather than an end. We are inviolable in ourselves as individuals and as owners of our property (legitimately acquired in the form of land etc.; or understood as our bodies/minds). Any boundary crossing not expressly consented to, is a violation of these fundamental...
Published on 12 May 2004 by C. SKALA

versus
33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very good argument, but now painfully out of date
Having read Rawls as part of my degree, we were also given parts of Nozick to compare it with. On reading the book, it seemed to be a more impressive argument when you see how all of his different ideas link together. He does make a forceful critique of Marxism in particular, and notes how Marxist ideas of "expoitation" could render parts of the welfare state as...
Published on 31 Jan. 2007 by John Barkley


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Libertarian, or Property-tarian?, 12 May 2004
By 
C. SKALA (London, United Kingdom United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Anarchy, State and Utopia (Paperback)
Robert Nozick argues from the (Kantian) principle that nothing and nobody can use an individual as a means rather than an end. We are inviolable in ourselves as individuals and as owners of our property (legitimately acquired in the form of land etc.; or understood as our bodies/minds). Any boundary crossing not expressly consented to, is a violation of these fundamental negative rights. Understood as such, any state that seeks to redistribute through taxation is performing an unconsented-to boundary crossing, and is therefore guilty of violation of these fundamental rights.
It’s altogether a very impressive feat of logical, consistent argumentation from first principles. I find the book impeccable. I am not a libertarian after reading Nozick’s book, but it has forced me to devote a lot of time and energy to working out why I’m not a libertarian. After all, who can disagree with the principle of ‘don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want others to do to you’? The morality underlying Nozick’s edifice is entirely acceptable, and yet as the argument progresses I found myself getting more and more uncomfortable. The problem has to do with which rights you might agree are fundamental and inviolable. Is the right to property, however acquired, fundamental to liberty? Nozick argues that it is. Without justice in property, there is no justice. Or Freedom. Or Liberty. Without the concept of private property, we are all potentially slaves to the State.
Concomitant with that proposition is an attitude which can be labelled ‘individual atomism’. Nozick, in keeping with other libertarians like Von Mises, Rothbard and Hoppe believes that individuals are paramount, unique and indivisible. Nothing may impinge on them. They enter the world fully formed (philosophically speaking) and exist before, above and outside of society. Indeed, I suspect that for most libertarians, society is a rootless (pointless?) concept. This isn’t necessarily a provable falsity. It is a view-point which however, is myopic. For by focussing so exclusively on one aspect of individuality, it ignores a host of other elements that contribute to individuality. Humans do not grow up alone. Our very being – in whatever category you choose to view it (philosophically, developmentally, ethically, biologically) – is formed in relation to, in opposition to, in agreement with others of our species (and, indeed, with other species). There is a totality which, through a ‘perspective shift’ suddenly leaps into sight. It is this – society? – which Nozick et. al. are uncomfortable with. To be fair to Nozick, he is perhaps an abstainer on the concept of society. In the ‘Utopia’ part of his book, he argues that as individuals we have the freedom to choose whichever society we might, assuming we can find enough other individuals who share our value preferences. And indeed, by going back to the first ethical principle of ‘don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you’ Nozick can claim that he’s arguing from a principle which recognises other individuals as equal to – if completely separate – from ourselves.
If there is a flaw in the libertarian and/or Nightwatchman State position, we must seek it in the so-called inviolability of private property rights. Nozick is very fuzzy here, and such fuzziness is telling. He disagrees with the Lockian formula for justice in acquisition and replaces it with a notion that there is justice in acquisition if by such acquisition we don’t leave others any worse off. If we do, then compensation (however determined) is due. That’s a very ‘nice’ principle, but it seems to me to be a fairytale. A libertarian political philosophy has to, at some stage, come to grips with the notion of origins, and it is here that Nozick fails. Can there ever be justice in acquisition of private property? How much property is needed? Can somebody allowably grab more than others? If so, then they will have more ‘freedom’ than the rest, and more liberty. A secondary consideration has to do with demographics. Libertarianism seems to me to be a view-point ideally suited to frontier communities. Where are we to find such communities these days? And how could you possible recreate them?
A final word on the usual association of libertarianism and free-market economics. Clearly Nozick thinks that only the unfettered operations of a free-market can sort out the competing claims of individuals in a State Of Nature; and that through such operations a minimal or Nightwatchman State can arise. He is, to be fair, agnostic on the rights of individuals to choose other forms of economic arrangements in his Utopia. But I suspect that he’ll have his bets firmly behind the capitalists who will out-compete all other social systems…
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important, thought-provoking response to Rawls and others, 13 Aug. 1999
By A Customer
I simply had to say that this book, though certainly not perfect, is a very interesting (and even entertaining) piece which certainly gives Rawlsian liberals something to chew on. In complete contrast from what an earlier reviewer has said, this book is hardly an embarrasment to Nozick, and while he has altered his positions on some points in the book, his later work is hardly a repudiation of AS&U.
Nor, as this previous reviewer writes, is AS&U only currently of interest to Randian libertarians. This is absolutely preposterous, as Nozick actually went out of his way to dismiss Rand in subsequent work, and the forumlations of his arguments here are not Randian. They are far more Lockean. One might also mention that the book did win a National Book Award, which (to me at any rate), would seem to indicate that it is probably not your everyday Randian screed.
As a junior in college, I took a course in political philosophy at the University of Michigan, which boasts of the nation's top faculties in ethics. The introductory political philosophy course that I took there gave heavy doses of both Rawls and Nozick. People who know what they are talking about consider Nozick's book quite important in debate of contemporary political philosophy. Those who clearly don't know what they are talking about (see the 1-star review below) ... well, they simply slam the guy and the book.
In summary, well worth a read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wordy, but worthy, 11 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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 Sanskrit. And very often this reads like the rantings of a madman. But a fun madman. A humble, honest madman with some amazing moments of clarity.

Executive summary:

1. Nozick sketches how a protection agency that guarantees its members' safety and/or property within a particular locale, while striving to compensate non-members for potential transgressions by its members, not only is morally justifiable, but also isn't a million miles away from what we call a state. So if you are some type of anarchist who does not like it, you don't have to join (and you and your fellow anarchists obviously can't expect it to look after you) but if you're just some guy who does not have hangups like that and there's a choice of protection agencies you will naturally go for the one that's most effective in the area where you live. So it's a bit of a natural monopoly locally and it's not something too distasteful. And it's a de facto minimal state. So a multitude of such contiguous minimal states can arise without violating anybody's natural rights. Takes him more than 100 pages to prove the statements I'm repeating (potentially mangling) here, but that's the gist of it.

2. There's a couple ways to decide if property is justly distributed: the "historical" and the "patterned." Historical breaks down as follows: justice in acquisition of said property and justice in its transfer. E basta. Patterned comes in as many flavors as you like. Egalitarian is an example of a pattern. Everybody gets the same. Another famous one that Nozick spends some 100 pages refuting is "Rawlsian," namely a distribution that leaves everything alone, except that the guys at the bottom get given a leg up. Nozick goes to town on this one, attacking the concept of the "veil of ignorance" which allegedly generates the Rawlsian distribution. Under this thought experiment, you don't know upfront if you'll be the guy who gets given the good deal or the crappy deal, so you take it easy on the guys at the bottom of the distribution. Nozick argues (convincingly AFAIC) that you can't judge from behind the veil. You'll always look at it from the angle from which you reckon you'll be placed in. Deeply philosophical stuff comes in, such as what your allocation really is. Are your brains part of your allocation? If you're a smart guy how can you think for the stupid guy? That type of deal. I was sold. But the best argument against "patterned" allocations Nozick makes is a lot better than that. Suppose we run the math, we maximise "utility" or "happiness" or whatever, according to our favorite pattern. And then suppose a couple fellows do a deal between them that they both feel is a good deal. Who are we to stop them? It can only be stuff like envy and jealousy driving us, since our allocations are unaffected. In summary, we cannot improve on the "historical" allocation, at least not from the perspective of justice. Much as we can look at the "historical" allocation and say it stinks, it's the one way of doing things that does not contain philosophical inconsistencies.

3. What does the perfect world look like, if there is no "pattern" toward which we need to strive? His answer is a bit of a cop-out. It depends on who you are, Nozick says. "Wittgenstein, Elizabeth Taylor, Bertrand Russel, Thomas Merton, Yogi Berra, Allen Ginsburg, Harry Wolfson, Thoreau, Casey Stengel, The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Picasso, Moses, Einstein, Hugh Heffner, Socrates, Henry Ford, Lenny Bruce, Baba Ram Dass, Gandhi, Sir Edmund Hillary, Raymond Lubitz, Budda, Frank Sinatra, Columbus, Freud, Norman Mailer, Ayn Rand, Baron Rothschild, Ted Williams, Thomas Edison, Bobby Fischer, Emma Goldman, Peter Kropotkin, you and your parents" might be your idea of the best crowd to hang out with, but they all may have different ideas of who they want to spend time with, what the social contract should be, whether private or public concerns are more important, if art matters, how to raise children etc. etc. So let a thousand flowers bloom, basically.

So here's why I'm glad I read the book. Most importantly, now I know what it does not say. Nozick claims, for example, that he set out to disprove point #1 and that he surprised himself when he couldn't. He does not claim anywhere in the book that things take care of themselves and reach a natural order, he does not say that some type of natural law will impose itself. He just says that the emergence of a minimal state does not violate anybody's rights. Also, while he states in the second part of the book that tax is theft, it's not some type of central tenet of the book. It's something that follows very naturally from proving that there is no such thing as a universally acceptable "pattern" for distribution. But he's almost unhappy that this flows from his arguments. You get the feeling that he wants to come back and look at this. I did, at any rate.

Also, the book is full of little gems. Like a footnote on page 239 that lists eight feelings about property, including the following:
ENVY is to prefer that your neighbor don't have something good if you can't have it
JEALOUSY is to want something you're normally indifferent to if your neighbor has it
GRUDGE is to prefer your neighbor does not have something good you happen to have
SPITE is to be prepared to miss out on something good if this means your neighbor misses out on it as well

Would not want to make it sound like I found this to be a masterpiece. The author claims in the closing pages that he had a pattern in mind all along, but the book is more of a mind-dump than anything else. And very few of the "proofs" offered are airtight and conclusive. It's for the most part proof by enumeration of cases. Except the author himself freely admits that his lists of special cases are almost never exhaustive. And at least half of them are there not to illustrate, but mainly to entertain. To entertain Robert Nozick first, and you the reader if you have the intelligence / patience / spare time to stay with him and have a chuckle. The book could have been a lot more parsimonious in the enumeration of special cases, counterfactuals, thought experiments etc. without losing any of its power. A lot of the time, reading "Anarchy, State and Utopia" feels like needing to hang up on a call from a lonely old relative, but not having the heart to do so.

So this book does not flow in a straight line. Euclid it ain't. It's more like the four color theorem, with half the proofs missing and the professor coming to class reeking of marijuana. I'm nevertheless glad I read it. It was instructive, it was at times entertaining and it made me think.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very good argument, but now painfully out of date, 31 Jan. 2007
By 
John Barkley (Ossett, West Yorkshire, U.K.) - See all my reviews
Having read Rawls as part of my degree, we were also given parts of Nozick to compare it with. On reading the book, it seemed to be a more impressive argument when you see how all of his different ideas link together. He does make a forceful critique of Marxism in particular, and notes how Marxist ideas of "expoitation" could render parts of the welfare state as exploitative. There are three big problems though.

First, this was written back in the days when political debates were Left v Right. It makes no mention at all of environmentalism, and the only time that it mentions animal rights is as an example of an absurdity [Nozick actually believes that eating meat is immoral, but he uses this as an example of how utilitarianism cannot be used as a grounds for the state]. Nozick works on the old premise that, if everyone works hard enough, everyone can get what they want. In this day and age, any such argument must at least respond to the environmentalist argument that this would make life on Earth unsustainable - and I can't see how anyone can convincingly argue that.

Secondly, the book is too American. He talks about universal rights, which belong to every human being, yet writes as if Americans are the only human beings of interest. What about those in other countries who have these rights yet may have greater difficulty in setting up his sort of state [e.g. greater corruption, poorer infrastructure]. If taxation is the theft that Nozick makes it out as, is it unjust that people in Iceland may have to pay greater taxes to protect their natural rights than people in Singapore do [due to admin costs]? The final section of the book, which deals with the idea of a variety of city states with their own rules for residents, seems completely alien to any resident of Europe; it is clearly connected to the old American ideal, where state rights allowed different religious communities to settle in different areas and live by different laws. It seems quite inapplicable to anywhere in Europe.

This links in with the third problem. There is hardly any historical dimension to this book. There is no factual analysis of what unrestrained capitalism did before - of those "dark satanic mills" in parts of 18th century England, where 5 year-old boys worked 13 hour days. There is little consideration of the fact that the current property distribution cannot be said to be "just" by the terms that he lays out, which renders protection of the existing order as unjust. To be fair to Nozick, he does say that his libertarian state is just a "thought experiment". The trouble is that, considering its poor representation of the real world, it is not a very useful experiment.

To conclude, the book is worth reading mainly to get criticisms of Rawls, Marx and some other old-fashioned leftists. It is not really useful to those who want to debate with more modern radicals, and is not meant for those looking for practical solutions to contemporary problems. A classic of philosophy, perhaps - but not a modern political manifesto.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Fun to read and think about, 8 Nov. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Anarchy, State and Utopia (Paperback)
This is my first review so I'll try to make it short. Nozick's book is essentially divided into two interchangeable parts: 1) His story about how governments appear out of a stateless society; 2) His complementary considerations on political principles.

The first part is not that good - principled people who do not violate the rights of others create governments by an "Invisible hand process" - Remember that this must be compared with other philosophical theories regarding the appearance of government (Rawls' veil of ignorance or Dworkin's clamshells which are equally bad our even worse philosophical explanations).

The second part is more interesting and thought provoking. Nozick attacks the notion of redistributive justice, equality of opportunity and democracy itself. Even if you disagree with him it is important to examine and think about his arguments.

There are two ways you can interpret this book: If you believe the world to be a constant battle for ideological supremacy then this was clearly a victory for the "enemy", if on the other hand you like moral and political philosophy for its own sake than the book will surprise, shock and entertain you.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Political Philosophy student's wish come true!, 4 Dec. 2000
By A Customer
Rawls' A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism may provide a more comprehensive and credible philosophy than Anarchy, State and Utopia, but Nozick poses some very difficult questions for the would-be Rawlsian.
As a student, this book made excellent essay material, not only was it easy to read, but the mental exercise of finding holes in Nozick's argument provided the material for some strong essays. If this book is on your reading list, buy it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A theoretical justification of libertarianism, 6 Jun. 1999
By A Customer
This and Rawls' _A Theory of Justice_ are arguably the two most important works of political philosophy of the last half century. Nozick harkens to a hypothetical pre-civilization 'state of nature' (as have several other imporant philosophers over the centuries) to provide a foundation from which to argue that a libertarian 'minimal state' is the limit of the rightful powers of a government.
You needn't agree with Nozick's conclusions to find this an utterly worthwhile read. In fact, puncturing holes in the arguments of political philosophers is an interesting hobby in itself, and Nozick presents some tempting targets for someone so inclined.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy as it should be practiced, 6 Oct. 2000
By A Customer
The importance of this book is not just in its political content, but in its method. Unlike one of the other reviewers comments, I believe this is one of the most honest philosophy books. It doesn't shirk from the difficulties of the conservative libertarian position and nor does it claim a total answer. It doesn't assume the naive perfectionism that has affected much anglo-american philosophy (see Cohen's attempted critique of ASU to see a particularly crass example). The book is consistently libertarian in its method as well as its content (as is Nozick's 'Philosophical Explanations').
This book offers the most astute conceptualisation of libertarianism - precisely because it does see the difficulties - as well as being one of the most readable philosophy texts.
This is one of the few philosophy texts - along wih Cioran's 'All Gall is Divided' - that has actually caused me to laugh out loud, and not with contempt like one does with sad marxists like Zizek.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars This is the book that kept Rawls up at night., 30 Oct. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The greatest book on Political Philosophy of all time.
Really I should say more about it but unfortuantely I am
too busy writing a dissertation on this book instead.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Great service!, 13 April 2015
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Anarchy, State and Utopia (Paperback)
Book as described and arrived promptly - thank-you!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Anarchy, State and Utopia
Anarchy, State and Utopia by Robert Nozick (Paperback - 4 Jan. 2001)
£22.49
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews