Individual Responsibility for Collective Actions

In Saba Bazargan Forward & Deborah Tollefsen (eds.), The Routledge Handbook to Collective Responsibility (2020)
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This chapter will develop standards for assessing individual moral responsibility for collective action. In some cases, these standards expand a person’s responsibility beyond what she or he would be responsible for if performing the same physical behavior outside of a group setting. I will argue that structural differences between two ideal types of groups— organizations and goal- oriented collectives— largely determine the baseline moral responsibility of group members for the group’s collective action. (Group members can be more or less responsible for collective action beyond that baseline due to personal qualities like knowledge of the intended collective outcome.) The same individual physical behavior can make the member of a goal-oriented collective responsible for the entire collective action to an equal degree with her fellow group members, whereas the typical organization member is only responsible for his contributory action.

Author's Profile

Michael Skerker
United States Naval Academy


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