The Moral Crisis: the responsibility of managers of financial institutions and the argument from inevitability

In Everton Maciel (ed.), Política Prática. pp. 287-308 (2020)
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Abstract

This paper argues, through conceptual analysis, against an objection to the disapproval of banks for the 2007-8 crisis: the idea that they could not have acted otherwise (at least not rationally) and that no one should be blamed for a fact one could not have avoided. If true, it would threaten the justification of corporate social responsibility and the legal liability of managers. Identified as the ‘inevitability thesis’, this objection is illustrated by an analysis of the film Margin Call (2011) and associated with other investigations on ethics and responsibility. The target thesis stems from a confusion between different notions of responsibility (for a task, for a decision, for causing an event and for repairing it) and leads to an incoherent form of fatalism. Finally, it is suggested that the invocation of ‘inevitability’ may be a way of rationalizing the decision, obscuring reasons to the contrary.

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