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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Collective responsibility and democratic practice Tian, Jie (TJ)


Questions of responsibility lie at the very heart of most social and political controversies. Responsibility attribution becomes rather complicated when it comes to social activities, in which members of a group share agency in collective actions or practices, even though these members may not participate directly in the outcome of such actions and the contribution of any single member to that outcome is negligible. The general tendency to individualize and to psychologize human actions makes it difficult to understand how collectives, such as companies, families and nations, can or should take responsibility for their actions. Philosophical attempts have been made to make sense of the concept of collective responsibility. Following these philosophers, I intend to develop some guiding principles for investigating collective responsibility and to explain how these principles reshape our general understanding of responsibility and public life. These principles of understanding collective responsibility have the potential to affect the practice of collective decisions making. Political decision-making by citizen participants in a democratic process is taken as a paradigm case of collective actions. I will defend a deliberative model of democratic practice as the most promising one in assisting citizen participants in recognizing that they will be invested with shared responsibility of the political community. A deliberative model not only helps citizen participants gain deliberative capacity and become more responsive to reasons, it also helps participants to see the shared nature of collective decisions.

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