Advanced Topics in Liberty

Liberty, Legitimacy, and Property in Robert Nozick's Anarchy State and Utopia

Conference for Graduate Students - November 11-13, 2011

Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia was published in 1974, and it remains the best known and most influential defense of classical liberalism among legal and political theorists, political philosophers, and philosophically-minded economists.

In the philosopher’s obituary in 2002, Nozick was described as “the greatest American philosopher since William James; his influence has extended far beyond the academic world, most famously with his powerful critique of the Left-liberal moral philosophy that underpinned the welfare state.” Anarchy, State, and Utopia remains the work that, in the minds of many academics, most forcefully advances a doctrine of individual natural rights, a conception of social and economic order as emergent and spontaneous rather than designed and commanded, and an understanding of economic justice as the product of voluntary, free market interactions.

Discussion Leader: Professor Mark Pennington, Queen Mary, University of London

All readings are selections from Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia,  published by Basic Books in 1974

Session I - The State of Nature and the Ultraminimal State

Chapter 1, “Why the State-of-Nature Theory?” (pages 3–9)

Chapter 2, “The State of Nature” (pages 10–25)

Selections from Chapter 3, “Moral Constraints and the State” (pages 26–51 [ending at “The Individualist Anarchist” subsection])

Session II - Procedural Rights and Prohibitions of Risky Behavior.

Selections from Chapter 3, “Moral Constraints and the State” (beginning with “The Individualist Anarchist,” pages 51–53)

Chapter 4, “Prohibition, Compensation, and Risk” (pages 54–87)

Selections from Chapter 5, “The State” including “Prohibiting Private Enforcement of Justice,” (pages 88–90), and “The de facto Monopoly” (pages 108–118)

Session III - Distributive Justice and Equality

Selections from Chapter 7, “Distributive Justice–Section I” (pages 149–182)

Selections from Chapter 8, “Equality, Envy, Exploitation, Etc.” (including “Equality,” pages 232–235 and “Equality of Opportunity,” pages 235–238)

Session IV - The Principle of Fairness

Selections from Chapter 5, “The State” (including “The Principle of Fairness”, pages 90–95)

Selections from Chapter 7, “Distributive Justice–Section II” (pages 183–227)

Session V - Envy, Exploitation, and Democracy

Selections from Chapter 8, “Equality, Envy, Exploitation, Etc.” including “Self-Esteem and Envy” (pages 239–246) “Meaningful Work” (pages 246–250), “Workers’ Control” (pages 250–253), “Marxian Exploitation” (pages 253–262), “Voluntary Exchange” (pages 262–265), “Philanthropy” (pages 265–268), “Having a Say Over What Affects You” (pages 268–271), “The Nonneutral State” (pages 271–274), and “How Redistribution Operates” (pages 274–275)

Selections from Chapter 9, “Demoktesis” (including page 276 and “The More-Than-Minimal State Derived” pages 280–292)

Session VI - A Framework for Utopia

Chapter 10, “A Framework for Utopia” (pages 297–334).