- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; New Ed edition (March 30, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0198297297
- ISBN-13: 978-0198297291
- Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 1 x 6.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,119,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law New Ed Edition
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"...an ambitious book....it is written with an unusual clarity of expression...the argument is carefully articulated so as to lay bare the bones of the ideas and expose them to careful scrutiny. Barnett has written a readable book that nonetheless will repay careful study....a rich and provocative set of arguments."--Michigan Law Review
"The Structure of Liberty is a very well written book of political and legal philosophy, drawing on Barnett's considerable analytical and rhetorical skills. It is an instant classic."--James Lindgren, Northwestern University School of Law
"The Structure of Liberty is that rare creature, a book that delivers on most of the promises it makes. Already the book is on its way to becoming a contemporary classic, the successor in interest to Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State and Utopia as a source of ideas and arguments for the revitalization of an important intellectual tradition that has long stood at the periphery of legal and political theory."--Michigan Law Review
"His interest in basic theory as it relates to the uses and abuses of political power makes his views on a wide range of state policy issues, from taxation to criminal law, worthy of careful attention."--Reason
"This is a serious, engaging, and important work of jurisprudence and political philosophy....Comprehensive in its treatment, fair-minded in the way it deals with evidence and unfailingly rigorous in its argument."--Choice
About the Author
Randy E. Barnett is Austin B. Fletcher Professor at the Boston University School of Law, and the author of numerous books on legal theory.
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Top Customer Reviews
In this brilliant work, which should be read as soon as possible by all parties to the anarchism/minarchism debate, Barnett tries to show what such a social order might look like. Here I shall briefly summarize the book's contents.
In an introductory chapter, "Liberty vs. license," he discusses just enough of the philosophy of "natural law" and "natural rights" to let his readers know he is _not_ writing a book about them and that his subsequent analysis does not stand or fall with any particular understanding of the origin of rights.
He then plunges, in Part 1, into the "Problem of Knowledge," which occupies the next five chapters. Here he deals in turn with what he calls the first-, second-, and third-order problems of knowledge: using resources, communicating justice, and specifying conventions. (Importantly, he acknowledges that "background rights" to life and property are not sufficient to determine the specific forms these rights should take in every case. What he has called the "third-order problem" -- specifying conventions that secure justice -- is thus not settled merely by an abstract account of "rights.") His argument here, of course, is that the classical-liberal conception of justice and the rule of law is what is needed in order to solve these knowledge problems.
Part 2 (chapters 7-9) deals with what Barnett identifies as the "Problems of Interest" (problems of partiality, incentive, and compliance) and Part 3 (chapters 10-14) with the "Problems of Power" (problems of enforcement error, fighting crime without punishment, and enforcement abuse). Here he argues that the liberal conception of justice and the rule of law solves these problems -- helpfully devoting chapters 13 and 14, respectively, to a more or less abstract discussion of a "polycentric" constitutional order and to a "short fable" envisioning concretely how such an order might work in practice.
Finally (Part 4, consisting of chapter 15), he devotes nearly thirty pages to consideration of possible criticisms. His trenchant closing remarks on "the limits of criticism" should be taken to heart by all parties to the debate.
I myself find his arguments cogent and compelling. Possibly some supporters of a minimal, limited State will find them less so. But be that as it may, Barnett has significantly advanced the debate with this fine volume, and no participants can claim to have dealt adequately with "anarcho-capitalism" until they have dealt also with Barnett.
The first point that Barnett makes in the introduction that colors the entire work is that every right is also a restriction or, stated differently, every right implies the warrant to do violence to those that violate that right. Because of this, a proper order of rights is necessary to define a system that separates legitimate claims of rights from illegitimate ones, so that the only violence that is done is just and the only rights that are protected are legitimate ones. Any system that presumes to do this, however, must deal with three fundamental problems: knowledge, interest, and power. His book is divided to deal with each of these issues individually and to see what a liberal justice system that could deal with these problems would look like. The main critique of our current legal system is that it does not adequately deal with these issues and therefore fails to uphold a "liberal conception of justice" under the rule of law.
The central selling point of this book, however, is that although it deals with issues of fundamental importance and of philosophical as well as practical interest, it is written in such a manner so that an interested layman with little or no background in political philosophy or law could understand it. Further, it is not only accessible but also captivating and highly entertaining. Clear writing is, no doubt, the product of clear thinking, but even in well thought out works there is usually something wanting in organization and style. I can honestly say, however, that The Structure of Liberty is one of the most clearly structured (no pun intended) and stylistically inviting books ever written on the topic of legal philosophy. If you have any interest in legal theory, political philosophy, or are just drawn to interesting and new ideas you should buy this book. You will be haunted by the ideas within, even if you disagree with them, again and again.