Robert Nozick's Moral and Political Theory: A Philosophical Critique of Libertarianism

Papaioannou, Theo (2010). Robert Nozick's Moral and Political Theory: A Philosophical Critique of Libertarianism. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press.



This book examines the foundation and formation of Robert Nozick's libertarianism. Nozick's "Anarchy, State and Utopia" is still very much influential today among right-wing libertarians who are either engaged in the current debate of distributive justice or work in new areas of bioethics and governance of technological innovation and development. Therefore, it is important to revisit his early politico-theoretical project, seeking a better understanding. The argument is twofold: first it is maintained that the libertarian dimension of Nozick's political theory consists of the idea of absolute individual rights, formed upon the premises of full self-ownership and moral inviolability of persons; secondly, it is pointed out that both premises are problematical not just because, as many authors have so far shown, they are indifferent towards basic freedoms and welfare consequences, but, above all, because they are abstracted from any epistemological principle of self-realisation. Only in the context of self-realisation the role of society and external resources in self-ownership can be recognised. This implies that self-ownership is always partial and never full. Only partial self-ownership can be reconciled with equality of resources and welfare. Due to its problematical foundation and formation, Nozick's libertarianism is fundamentally implausible.

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