Being Responsible and Holding Responsible: On the Role of Individual Responsibility in Political Philosophy

Lasse Nielsen, David V. Axelsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

This paper explores the role individual responsibility plays in contemporary political theory. It argues that the standard luck egalitarian view—the view according to which distributive justice is ensured by holding people accountable for their exercise of responsibility in the distribution of benefits and burdens—obscures the more fundamental value of being responsible. The paper, then, introduces an account of ‘self-creative responsibility’ as an alternative to the standard view and shows how central elements on which this account is founded has been prominently defended in the history of Western political thought but are comparatively neglected in contemporary political theory. Relying on this account, the paper argues that society should hold persons responsible when, and only when, doing so enables them to lead responsible lives, and only on the condition that doing so does not infringe other persons’ equivalently valuable ability to lead responsible lives. The account of self-creative responsibility, the paper concludes, plausibly captures the intuitive attraction of holding responsible while respecting the value of being responsible.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRes Publica
Volume27
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)641-659
ISSN1356-4765
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

Keywords

  • Accountability
  • Justice
  • Moral Agency
  • Responsibility
  • Self-creation

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