Personal responsibility began as a conservative catchphrase. But over time, leaders across the political spectrum came to subscribe to its underlying framework. Today, even egalitarian philosophers rarely question the normative importance of responsibility. Emphasizing the pervasive influence of luck over our lives, they cast the poor as victims who cannot be held responsible for their actions.
Mounk shows that today’s focus on individual culpability is both wrong and counterproductive: it distracts us from the larger economic forces determining aggregate outcomes, ignores what we owe our fellow citizens regardless of their choices, and blinds us to other key values, such as the desire to live in a society of equals. Recognizing that even society’s neediest members seek to exercise genuine agency, Mounk builds a positive conception of responsibility. Instead of punishing individuals for their past choices, he argues, public policy should aim to empower them to take responsibility for themselvesand those around them.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Ascendance of Personal Responsibility 1
1 The Origins of the Age of Responsibility 29
2 The Welfare State in the Age of Responsibility 70
3 The Denial of Responsibility 100
4 Reasons to Value Responsibility 145
5 A Positive Conception of Responsibility 172
Conclusion: Beyond the Age of Responsibility 208