Conference poster »Verantwortung in Philosophie, Gesellschaft und Politik«
Conference poster »Verantwortung in Philosophie, Gesellschaft und Politik«

Responsibility

Responsibility

My dissertation project began with the simple observation that to behave responsibly has become a /obvious/ norm. Yet, historically speaking, this is fairly new - only 200 years ago, »responsibility« was a rather marginal legal concept with no ethical significance. So what does the surprising career of »responsibility« mean, both for our thinking and our acting? What happens when »responsibility« becomes a required self-understanding for individuals at the workplace, in the welfare state or in the criminal justice system? And what are the consequences when philosophy’s analyses of »responsibility« focus almost exclusively on conditions of agency mostly absent in non-philosophical practices?

In addition, »responsibility« has changed in the course of its ascend. In The Spell of Responsibility I therefore analyse both the sociological discussion on the »subjectivation of labour«, the debates about the welfare state in political science and sociology, criminological studies of the so-called »responsibilization strategy« and analyses of the trial from legal theory as well as from the anthropoligy of law. In every instance we find that one condition for using »responsibility« that philosophy uncritically affirms as being necessary is missing: the agency of those who bear responsibility. Thus my first stept uses research results from the social sciences, selected according to a philosophical question, to cast doubts on a philosophical certainty.

Looking at the history of »responsibility« in philosophical arguments confirms that the conceptual fusion of agency and »responsibility« is a rather late invention of the 20th century. Following the conceptual development of »responsibility« also allows to detect the continuity of a highly peculiar form of self-relation which stabilizes »responsibility«’s conceptual identity: To be a responsible subject means to gain sovereignty in exchange for objectifying power relations. My critique targets precisely this responsable self-relation and philosophy’s blindness for its effects: Since »responsibility« today is used (maybe even needed) to account for normativity’s force and thus for the nature of normativity as philosophy’s primary field of research, »responsibility« is a concept so attractive that the self-objectification tied to it is either overlooked or denied.

Yet studying the philosophical reflections on »responsibility« has also uncovered a wealth of further results, some of which I have already published: studies on the relation between »duty« and »responsibility«, on juridificism in the discourse theory of law and on the interdependence of the developments of moral and political conceptions of »responsibility«.

Publications

The article traces genesis and changes of the concept of political responsibility in the practices in which it is used. It highlights …

Most conceptual analyses of responsibility fail to sufficiently account for the historicity of the concept – both within philosophical …

Die Debatte um die Differenz von »Verantwortung« und »Pflicht« ist kein bloßer Streit um Wörter, geht es doch um Begriffe, für die der …

Klaus Günther’s discourse theory of law links the concept of criminal responsibility with the legitimacy of democratic law. Because …

Most people would agree that we should behave and act in a responsible way. Yet only 200 years ago, ‘responsibility’ was only of …

Die philosophischen Reflexionen zu »Verantwortung« erfolgten in den 1980er Jahren an drei Brennpunkten und lassen sich als …

Die Behauptung, dass Verantwortung eine Subjektform sowie die Technik zu ihrer Herstellung bezeichnet, wird kaum Erstaunen auslösen. …

2002 wurde die »Ich-AG« zum Unwort des Jahres gewählt, doch ihre Bedeutung geht weit darüber hinaus. Sie ist der Schlüsselbegriff der …

talks

Die Responsibilisierung unseres Denkens führt zur Herrschaft eines bestimmten Gebrauchs von »Verantwortung«, der unsere Denk-, Handlungs-, und Seinsweisen bestimmt.

Der Gebrauch von »Verantwortung« unterliegt einem Wandel, der sich entgegen prominenter Diagnosen weder als »Diffusion« noch als »Individualisierung« begreifen lässt. Vielmehr intensiviert er den Selbstbezug von Verantwortungsträger_innen und die Machtasymmetrien zwischen ihrer Subjektposition und jener der Verantwortungszuschreiber_innen. Der Vortrag diskutiert die Folgen dieses Vorgangs.