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Nozick Revisited: The Formation of the Right-Based Dimension of his Political Theory

Papaioannou, T

International Political Science Review   29 (3) 261-280

June 2008

Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia is still influential today among right-wing (neo-)libertarian thinkers. The latter are engaged in the current debate on distributive justice, insistently defending the minimal state and the case against social justice on the grounds of inviolable individual rights. The premises of their defense are explicitly derived from Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Therefore, if one is interested in challenging the right-wing libertarian arguments today, one should be interested in revisiting Nozick, refuting the key elements of his theory. That is what this article does: it re-examines the formation of the moral dimension of Nozick's political theory. It argues that this dimension consists of the idea of absolute individual rights and is formed upon the premises of full self-ownership and the moral inviolability of persons. Both premises are problematical because they are abstracted from any epistemological principle of self-realization.