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The idea of self-ownership

Cleaver, Gavin M. 2011. The idea of self-ownership. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The idea that each of us owns our physical selves is one that has largely failed to achieve prominence in contemporary political theory, despite its sound philosophical basis, largely due to its association with a strong formulation of right-wing libertarianism best expressed in the work of Robert Nozick. In this thesis I argue that the idea as expressed in Nozick's most infamous work, Anarchy, State and Utopia, is not taken to its full conclusion and that there is in fact a way of unpacking self-ownership, necessary under proper consideration of its underlying premises, that would imply far less of a connection with right-libertarianism. Fundamentally, Nozick considered self-ownership as a base value in itself, informing all of his subsequent political and ethical values. Through analysis of various important contemporary attempts to improve on and undermine self-ownership, points made respectively by libertarians who wish to modify it and non-libertarians who wish to do away with it, I argue that self-ownership must in fact be a structure which is itself derivative of a more basic and fundamental value. Conceding the argument held in common by all of the major theorists proposing modifications to self-ownership, that self-ownership is a self-defeating theory when we consider the operability and usefulness of the rights it bestows upon those who have no original resources to trade, I seek to enquire exactly what it is about rights-holders that self-ownership rights were designed to protect and promote, using evidence gleaned from the work of Nozick. I conclude from this that the basic value of agency must underlie the Nozickian supposition of self-ownership. Making agency the primary value subsequently means that self-ownership needs a further derivative principle, something approximating a redistributive system which enables all agents to have self-ownership rights which are of comparably equal usefulness to them.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Department of Politics and International Relations (POLIR)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Uncontrolled Keywords: Contemporary political theory ; Robert Nozick ; Self-ownership ; Libertarianism
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 23:00

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