Collective Responsibility by Agreement


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




It is often challenging to distribute responsibility fairly for harms that result from collective wrongdoing. Few object to blaming an agent for making a contribution to collective wrongdoing, but it is far more controversial to attribute fault to one agent for the contributions made by other participants. This dissertation argues that co-responsibility for collective wrongdoing ought to be distributed only to those who authorize the offending actions, whether expressly or tacitly. By authorizing another to carry out wrongdoing on one’s behalf, one becomes to blame for the unjustified harm caused by one’s agent or agents. This project articulates an authorization theory of distributive collective, or shared, responsibility, and defends it against competing alternatives. It further argues that authorization serves as a fairer standard for distributing individual liability for collective crimes than existing norms in international law employed by the ad hoc tribunals or International Criminal Court.