Nozick & Distributive Justice (Summary)


Nozick: Anarchy, State and Utopia as a critique of the Rawls distributive justice theory:

Here is a paper on the major work of political philosophy of Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia.

This book presents itself as a libertarian critique of the Theory of Justice by John Rawls. For Nozick, distributive justice is incompatible with the rights of individuals.

In the first part of the book, Nozick attempts to demonstrate against the supporters of the welfare state, the minimal state is the only one that can be justified, it is legitimate to say. The State must confine itself to functions of government (judicial sphere, police, army, and the protection of individuals and property). Any state that goes beyond these functions violate the rights of individuals. This conception of the state based on a philosophy of subjectivity, in which the individual is conceived as fully free and responsible owner of himself and his property.


Nozick and Justice: A summary

Nozick breaks with the tradition of classical philosophy. Neither liberal nor Marxist, he reduced the question of justice to an issue of violation of rights. Three principles can deliver this human rights:

– Principle of acquisition (or appropriation) is the process by which things of the world, not belonging to anyone, become appropriate objects. In the tradition of Locke, Nozick argues that an acquisition is fair only if it improves the lot of tous.Rousseau saw the phenomenon of appropriation as iniquitous and the source of inequalities between men. It seems that Nozick lose sight of the notion of equality between men.

– Principle of transfer of property: every individual must be able to keep, trade or give away its property.

– Principle of redress injustices: The third principle is correct inequities resulting from the first two principles.

For Nozick, distributive justice should intervene in people’s lives to correct inequalities. Thus, individual rights are sacrificed in the name of the company and its balance. According to the libertarian, nothing can compel individuals to be secured. The distribution must be voluntary. For him, taxes as a source of funding = u redistributive system can be described as “hard labor” as the person works part time for someone other than himself. The individual must be an end, not a means used by the company:

Every person deserves what he gets, unaided by his own efforts. Thus, the better off society have more to cooperate with the less fortunate

For Nozick, life is unfair and we can thwart this fate only by violating human dignity.


Cite this article as: Tim, "Nozick & Distributive Justice (Summary), May 20, 2012, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, May 20, 2012,

Leave a Reply