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Group Responsibility for Ethnic Conflict

Virginia Held
The Journal of Ethics
Vol. 6, No. 2, Collective Responsibility (2002), pp. 157-178
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25115723
Page Count: 22
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Group Responsibility for Ethnic Conflict
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Abstract

When a group of persons such as a nation or corporation has a relatively clear structure and set of decision procedures, it is capable of acting and should, it can well be argued, be considered morally as well as legally responsible. This is not because it is a full-fledged moral person, but because assigning responsibility is a human practice, and we have good moral reasons to adopt the practice of considering such groups responsible. From such judgments, however, little follows about the responsibility of individual members of such groups; much more needs to be ascertained about which officials or executives are responsible for what before we can consider individual members of nations or corporations responsible. Whether an unorganized group can be morally responsible is much less clear, but there have been useful discussions in recent years of the possible responsibility of whites for racism, or males for sexism, and the like. In this essay I explore arguments for considering groups or their members responsible for ethnic conflict. Such groups may lack a clear organizational structure, but they are not random assortments of persons. Groups can and often should take responsibility for the attitudes and actions of their members, and can sometimes be considered responsible for failing to do so. And persons often can and should take responsibility for the attitudes and actions of the groups of which they are members.

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