The Journal of Ethics

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 157–178

Group Responsibility for Ethnic Conflict

  • Virginia Held

DOI: 10.1023/A:1015846131530

Cite this article as:
Held, V. The Journal of Ethics (2002) 6: 157. doi:10.1023/A:1015846131530


When a group of persons such as a nation orcorporation has a relatively clear structureand set of decision procedures, it is capableof acting and should, it can well be argued, beconsidered morally as well as legallyresponsible. This is not because it is afull-fledged moral person, but becauseassigning responsibility is a human practice,and we have good moral reasons to adopt thepractice of considering such groupsresponsible. From such judgments, however,little follows about the responsibility ofindividual members of such groups; much moreneeds to be ascertained about which officialsor executives are responsible for what beforewe can consider individual members of nationsor corporations responsible.Whether an unorganized group can be morallyresponsible is much less clear, but there havebeen useful discussions in recent years of thepossible responsibility of whites for racism,or males for sexism, and the like. In thisessay I explore arguments for consideringgroups or their members responsible for ethnicconflict. Such groups may lack a clearorganizational structure, but they are notrandom assortments of persons. Groups can andoften should take responsibility for theattitudes and actions of their members, and cansometimes be considered responsible for failingto do so. And persons often can and shouldtake responsibility for the attitudes andactions of the groups of which they aremembers.

collective responsibilityethnic groupformer Yugoslaviaindividual responsibility

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Virginia Held
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCity UniversityNew YorkUSA