Anarchy at Harvard
The publication of Anarchy, State, and Utopia in 1974 gave a new thrust of hope and optimism to America, shaken by the Watergate scandal and inevitably on its way to the first international defeat in its history, marked by the retreat of the troops from Vietnam. Its author, Robert Nozick, had nothing in common with either the image of the Great Old European in the style of Herbert Marcuse, tutelar deity of sixties liberalism, or that of the strict professor in the style of John Rawls, the teacher of neo-contractualism, who had just published his most important essay, A Theory of Justice ( 1971), still considered a landmark of American and European political philosophy.
Nozick was born in Brooklyn in 1938 to a family of Russian Jews. He was a young man who, with a studied candor, juxtaposed an extremely strict philosophical training, constructed layer by layer on the rigors of analytical thought, with the recovery of an individualistic anarchical tradition that, in American culture, had its founding father in Henry David Thoreau.
Unlike his Harvard colleague Stanley Cavell, who in the same years revived the long-dormant tradition of Thoreau and transcendentalism in a "genealogical" key, Nozick was making it for the first time a programmatic discourse. Against the line of French utopianism in the style of Charles Fourier, centered on the concept of an "ideal community," Nozick proposed a pluralistic anarchism, based on the coexistence of different social events in a potentially peaceful conversation with one another.