The framework for utopia

In The Cambridge Companion to Nozick's 'Anarchy, State, and Utopia'. Cambridge University Press (2011)
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This paper analyses Nozick's possible-worlds model of utopia. It identifies and examines three arguments in favour of the minimal state: (1) the minimal state is the real-world analogue of the possible-worlds model and can hence be considered to be inspiring; (2) the minimal state is the common ground of all possible utopian conceptions and can hence be universally endorsed; and (3) the minimal state is the best or at least a very good means for approximating or achieving utopia. While constituting fascinating lines of inquiry, all arguments are found to be wanting and unable to yield the conclusions that Nozick intended to establish. Nonetheless, they establish interesting and important results, in particular the result that the minimal state is the maximal institutional structure that is in principle compatible with the complete satisfaction of the maximal non-arbitrary set of preferences that are in principle co-satisfiable, as well as the corollary that in utopia any state will exert at most the functions of a minimal state.

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Ralf M. Bader
Oxford University


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