On Sharing Responsibility

Thursday, 18 November 2010, 6:00pm - 8:00pm

Jan Patocka Memorial Lecture

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“Responsibility” is a triadic concept: Someone is responsible to someone (or even “all of us”) for (refraining from) doing something. The concept plays a role in political ethics (Weber’s famous “ethics of responsibility”) as well as in theories of distributive justice (the rule that you should be rewarded in proportion to what you have been responsible for in terms of your efforts and ambition). In democratic theory, rulers are mandated with the responsibility for shaping policies in the future; they are also, retrospectively, held responsible (or accountable) for what they have actually done and achieved. We recognize and appreciate respon-sible modes of action by the three criteria of future-regardingness, other-regardingness, and the agent’s “reality-regardingness”, or adequate consideration of relevant facts and causal mechanisms. Two types of problems are distinguished in which responsibility is in demand: “free rider” problems of collective action and “brother’s keeper” problems of solidarity and distributive justice. The lecture concludes with a discussion of insufficient supply of responsible modes of action, thus understood, and with the question of what public policies (and arguably the media) may be able to do in order to balance the supply and demand of such action.

Claus Offe, Professor of Political Sociology at the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin.


Politische Theorie und Politische Philosophie: Ein Handbuch, München: C.H. Beck, i.E.
Strukturprobleme des kapitalistischen Staates: Aufsätze zur Politischen Soziologie, Frankfurt/Main: Campus, 2006
Selbstbetrachtung aus der Ferne: Tocqueville, Weber und Adorno in den Vereinigten Staaten, Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 2004

In cooperation with the Renner Institut