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postgraduate thesis: Global injustice, collective responsibility, and individual action

TitleGlobal injustice, collective responsibility, and individual action
Authors
Issue Date2016
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Pao, S. [包世一]. (2016). Global injustice, collective responsibility, and individual action. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5736686
AbstractI examine under what conditions an ordinary individual living in a globally affluent country is responsible for the occurrence of global and international injustices like climate change, extreme poverty, and unjust wars, and is required to remedy them. One problem is that in virtue of their scale and complexity, global problems are produced and can only be solved by collective action (or inaction). An individual’s contributory action (or inaction), taken in isolation, is insufficient or even unnecessary to bring about the collective harm or prevent it. I argue that an individual’s contribution that is unnecessary to the harm occurring is nonetheless unjustified if it causally contributes to the harm or if it fails to meet some subjective conditions. I also suggest that the particular way individuals’ actions interact to produce a collective outcome has implications for what an individual should do: it matters whether the collective harm emerges only when the number of contributions meet an exact, all-or-nothing threshold, or whether it is the result of an incremental aggregation of a large number of individually insignificant contributions. Regarding some instances of global injustice, the collective harming in question is not a discrete, anomalous event against a just background condition but is rather a prevalent practice embedded in the social structure comprising the social rules, culture, and infrastructure. While actions of ordinary individuals help perpetrate the unjust social structure, it is institutions like states, corporations, and supra-national agencies that set the framework of the structure. Institutions may even be the perpetrators of harm, and individuals contribute, if they do, only as accessories. For instance, when buying products from a multinational corporation, an individual may – intentionally or not – provide support to its malpractices (e.g., exploitation of workers or environmental pollution), and a citizen who is not directly involved in his state’s act of waging an unjust war may financially contribute to it through his tax payment. I discuss how the dynamic between institutional actors and ordinary individuals bears on our evaluation of these latter’s responsibility for global injustices. A number of theories seek to justify imputing remedial duties to individuals for harmful acts committed by their state functionaries or their co-nationals on the mere basis of their membership in their states or nations, i.e., notwithstanding that they have not contributed, through their actions or omissions, to the harms. I examine three such accounts that appeal to three different criteria of state or national membership: sharing the national culture in general; willingly participating in (and receiving benefits from) the state’s activities; and hypothetically “authorizing” the state’s acts. I contend that some of these criteria are not clearly spelled out and their empirical applicability to the cases concerned is limited. More importantly, responsibility distributed on grounds of group membership is at most vicarious responsibility, and it is not clear that given the particular nature of the group in question, namely, the nation-state, it is justified to hold its members, i.e., the citizenry, responsible when they are not truly responsible.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectJustice
Individual
Responsibility
Dept/ProgramPolitics and Public Administration
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/225203

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorPao, Sze-yi-
dc.contributor.author包世一-
dc.date.accessioned2016-04-28T06:50:48Z-
dc.date.available2016-04-28T06:50:48Z-
dc.date.issued2016-
dc.identifier.citationPao, S. [包世一]. (2016). Global injustice, collective responsibility, and individual action. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5736686-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/225203-
dc.description.abstractI examine under what conditions an ordinary individual living in a globally affluent country is responsible for the occurrence of global and international injustices like climate change, extreme poverty, and unjust wars, and is required to remedy them. One problem is that in virtue of their scale and complexity, global problems are produced and can only be solved by collective action (or inaction). An individual’s contributory action (or inaction), taken in isolation, is insufficient or even unnecessary to bring about the collective harm or prevent it. I argue that an individual’s contribution that is unnecessary to the harm occurring is nonetheless unjustified if it causally contributes to the harm or if it fails to meet some subjective conditions. I also suggest that the particular way individuals’ actions interact to produce a collective outcome has implications for what an individual should do: it matters whether the collective harm emerges only when the number of contributions meet an exact, all-or-nothing threshold, or whether it is the result of an incremental aggregation of a large number of individually insignificant contributions. Regarding some instances of global injustice, the collective harming in question is not a discrete, anomalous event against a just background condition but is rather a prevalent practice embedded in the social structure comprising the social rules, culture, and infrastructure. While actions of ordinary individuals help perpetrate the unjust social structure, it is institutions like states, corporations, and supra-national agencies that set the framework of the structure. Institutions may even be the perpetrators of harm, and individuals contribute, if they do, only as accessories. For instance, when buying products from a multinational corporation, an individual may – intentionally or not – provide support to its malpractices (e.g., exploitation of workers or environmental pollution), and a citizen who is not directly involved in his state’s act of waging an unjust war may financially contribute to it through his tax payment. I discuss how the dynamic between institutional actors and ordinary individuals bears on our evaluation of these latter’s responsibility for global injustices. A number of theories seek to justify imputing remedial duties to individuals for harmful acts committed by their state functionaries or their co-nationals on the mere basis of their membership in their states or nations, i.e., notwithstanding that they have not contributed, through their actions or omissions, to the harms. I examine three such accounts that appeal to three different criteria of state or national membership: sharing the national culture in general; willingly participating in (and receiving benefits from) the state’s activities; and hypothetically “authorizing” the state’s acts. I contend that some of these criteria are not clearly spelled out and their empirical applicability to the cases concerned is limited. More importantly, responsibility distributed on grounds of group membership is at most vicarious responsibility, and it is not clear that given the particular nature of the group in question, namely, the nation-state, it is justified to hold its members, i.e., the citizenry, responsible when they are not truly responsible.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.subject.lcshJustice-
dc.subject.lcshIndividual-
dc.subject.lcshResponsibility-
dc.titleGlobal injustice, collective responsibility, and individual action-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb5736686-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplinePolitics and Public Administration-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-

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