Responsibility for past injustice: How to shift the burden

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 2 (2):165-190 (2003)
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This article considers the question of the responsibility of present generations for injustices committed by previous ones. It asks whether the descendants of victims of past injustice have claims against the descendants of the perpetrators of injustice. Two modes of argument are examined: the individual responsibility approach, according to which descendants cannot have claims against other descendants, and the collective responsibility approach, according to which descendants do have strong claims. Both approaches are criticized, but for different failings. An alternative view, building on the individualist approach, is defended. This view argues that some people may have to bear responsibility for past injustice if lines of responsibility can clearly be drawn. This is most likely when certain kinds of corporate agents persist over generations, even after original members of such corporations have ceased to exist. Key Words: responsibility • justice • injustice • aborigines • history.



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Chandran Kukathas
London School of Economics

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