The individual and the state: between libertarianism and egalitarian liberalism

Mthembu, Senzelwe Phindokuhle Nondumiso
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
This thesis examines conceptions of power as a way to determine whether an egalitarian liberal state or a libertarian state can best realize individual liberties. The traditional debate, although addressing a different question (What is justice and the conditions for a just society?), has embedded within it the issue of promoting liberties. The egalitarian liberal view defended by its most prominent contemporary advocate, John Rawls attempts to reconcile the values of equality and liberty, and argues that the promotion and realization of liberties require more involvement from the state in terms of law-making and redistribution of resources. In contrast, the libertarian view, for which Robert Nozick is its most prominent proponent defends a minimal state and argues that inequalities are permitted as long as liberties and property rights are respected. I attempt to show that underlying the debate in respect of which state better realizes liberties is a particular conception of power. Particularly, I show that although power underlies the debate, a more robust conceptualization of power and the discourse on power is missing from it. By analysing the debate from the perspective of power relations (between the individual and the state), drawing on Michel Foucault, and by reconfiguring the ways in which power is conceptualized, interesting interpretations and conclusions can be drawn.
A Research Report submitted to the FACULTY OF HUMANITIES at THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND JOHANNESBURG in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts by Coursework and Research in PHILOSOPHY 16 February 2015