Social Philosophy Today


published on June 22, 2017

Elizabeth S. Piliero

Debating Collective Responsibility
Arendt and Young

This paper elucidates Hannah Arendt’s conditions for collective responsibility in light of her political writings. In turn, it pushes back on Iris Marion Young’s reservations about Arendtian collective responsibility and demonstrates its compatibility with Youngian political responsibility. At issue is how to understand (a) Arendtian collective responsibility as political and therefore forward-looking, (b) Arendt’s view of responsibility in the political realm as different from her view in the moral-legal realm, and (c) what Arendt’s vision of collective responsibility requires of everyone. If Young’s political responsibility relates to Arendt’s collective responsibility more than she thinks, then this may call for a significant rethinking of Young’s reliance on Arendt. My inquiry into their debate leads to a standpoint from which one can contribute to contemporary discussions about responsibility in a world with growing and elaborate public spheres.