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on 6 June 1999
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.
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on 6 October 2000
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.
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on 29 July 2007
Nozick starts from the assumption that the one basic human right in the "state of nature" is the right to hold property, absolutely, without regard to anyone else. From this he concludes that it is wrong for the state demand taxes to pay welfare, and that slavery is fine so long as it is done with the slave's initial consent.

He purports to base this on a misquote of Kant: "treat others as an end not solely as a means". Kant actually said "treat humanity whether in your own person or in the person of another not solely as a means but also as an end". From this Kant deduced the opposite: that it was obligatory to pay charity, and that slavery was in all cases abhorrent. Nozick doesn't actually mention any of Kant's arguments, which is odd, as he claims to be a Kantian.

Nozick also avoids any discussion of property rights, such as Hohfeld's technical legal theories, or Proudhon's anarchist discussion of property. Again, although he cites a single quote of Proudhon's from a secondary source, he never mentions the theories of the state, property or human rights of Proudhon, Kropotkin, Bakunin, nor any leading anarchist thinker. This is odd as half his book is supposed to be a discussion of anarchism.

Nozick does quote, in detail and in some length, Mises and Hayek, so he is familiar with the work of at least two political philosophers. All in all, a disappointingly uninformed book for someone of his position. If you know where the cream is, and lick it shamelessly, you can go a long way.

All that said, this is an influential book, and was very popular when it came out, leaving a lasting mark on subsequent conservative and libertarian thinkers. If you are, for example, keen on Ayn Rand, and are finding that academics are turning their nose up at you, try hitting them instead with Nozick. Probably undeservedly, he has a higher reputation amongst most in academe.
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on 13 April 2015
Book as described and arrived promptly - thank-you!
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on 18 March 2014
I received the book a few days late, I complained and they were very nice about it... The book was perfect! Thanks
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on 3 April 1999
This is one of the most important books on political philosophy in the latter half of this century. Robert Nozick has re-defined the debate over individual rights and the state. No matter what your political and philosophical position, you must read this book. You will either find ideas that you can use to define your own world-view or you will find the weapons that others will use against your own position.
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on 16 May 1999
Nozick has recapitulated for the modern era the theory of classical liberalism that was originated by J. Locke. However, he goes one better by providing a secular, rationalized basis for the theory of Natural Rights. Thus, all that follows in a minimalist state is justified in a rigorous manner. Further, he ably refutes the contemporary champion of revisionary liberalism, Rawls and his original position thesis. Absolutely the most revolutionary work on the subject in over a century.
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on 3 July 1998
those of you who have not read the book: do. those of you who have, and have written reviews on it: think again. moral philosophy is not wothless, nor is it a waste of time! if it is not your genre,you should not read it in the first place. it is there to be appreciated and thought about; not casually criticised nor misunderstood.
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on 3 November 2008
Nozick is the considered the originator of the oxymoronic and totally imaginary 'anarcho capitalist' movement. In practice this is just about the least human, humane and rational school of thought to come out of Enlightenment liberalism. Entirely unworkable and entirely contradictory, the idea that you can have a stateless society yet run things by the market is far more ridiculous than the ideas of actual anarchists like Bakunin and Kropotkin.

Even if all people were born completely equal with exactly the same skills and resources available, as long as the uneven distribution of the market existed then in one generation an elite would form and oppress those who hadn't made it. This is the nature of the market, some win because others lose. Nozick's version, where there is absolutely NO limit whatsoever on what the winners can do with their money and NO safety net at all for the losers, is particularly callous. The rich would obviously seek to protect themselves by hiring a police force and by establishing a legal system (both of which they would own, so would do their bidding) - how this is any different from a state Nozick never tells us. On top of this there is nothing you cannot do, as long as it involves money - so keeping slaves, selling rape porn, buying torture devices - it's all good, supply and demand man! The individual would never be held accountable to the community or any form of democracy - that, we are told, is oppressive. Instead they'd be judged by whoever had the most cash and therefore the most power. That we are told, would be total liberty!

The fact is Nozick and the minarchists (all 5 of them) have no intention of actually eliminating the state for any legitimate reasons - such as the way it protects inequality and holds all sovereign power over the individual. What this work and its followers are really about is making a fake 'radical' case for lower taxes and greater market freedom. You might as well read the Republican Party manifesto. It would be more honest.

If you are interested in anarchism proper, look elsewhere.
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on 26 September 2001
This book is a great present for students doing social studies as it out lines the way the govenment is oppresing the state today. It is also great for would-be lawyers as it has interesting information in regard to the state.
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