Subjects of Responsibility: Framing Personhood in Modern Bureaucracies

Subjects of Responsibility: Framing Personhood in Modern Bureaucracies


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How and why has the concept of responsibility come to pervade the fabric of American public and private life? How are ideas of responsibility instantiated in, and constituted by, the workings of social and political institutions? What place do liberal discourses of responsibility, based on the individual, have in today’s biopolitical world, where responsibility is so often a matter of risk assessment, founded in statistical probabilities?

Bringing together the work of scholars in anthropology, law, literary studies, philosophy, and political theory, the essays in this volume show how state and private bureaucracies play crucial roles in fashioning forms of responsibility, which they then enjoin on populations. How do government and market constitute subjects of responsibility in a culture so enamored of individuality? In what ways can those entities—centrally, in modern culture, those engaged in insuring individuals against loss or harm—themselves be held responsible, and by whom? What kinds of subjectivities are created in this process? Can such subjects be said to be truly responsible, and in what sense?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780823233236
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Publication date: 04/01/2011
Edition description: 3
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Andrew Parker is Professor of English at Amherst College.

Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College. He is the author or co-editor of over seventy books and the recipient of numerous prizes and awards.

Martha Merrill Umphrey is Professor of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought at Amherst College.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

Introduction Andrew Parker Austin Sarat Martha Merrill Umphrey 1

Part I Responsibility, Bureaucracy, and Accountability in Social and Political Life

1 Assuming Responsibility in a State of Necessity Leonard C. Feldman 21

2 How to Do Responsibility: Apology and Medical Error S. Lochlann Jain 38

3 Responsibility and the Burdens of Proof Carol J. Greenhouse 58

Part II Responsibility, Risk, and Insurance

4 Whereas, and Other Etymologies of Responsibility Eric Wertheimer 81

5 "Death by His Own Hand": Accounting for Suicide in Nineteenth-Century Life Insurance Litigation Susanna L. Blumenthal 98

6 Bonded and Insured: The Cautious Imagination Ravit Reichman 145

Notes 162

List of Contributors 201

Index 205

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