Are citizens culpable for state action?

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International law holds that states are holistically responsible for their acts. Yet what does the ascription of responsibility to the state imply about the responsibility of its citizens? This article argues that most citizens in a representative democracy bear culpability in association with their state's wrongful acts. Most democratic citizens can be blamed for empowering representatives to act on their behalf, and then failing to adequately oversee and dissent from the specific wrongful decisions their representatives made. This gives culpable citizens duties that go beyond compensation, especially duties to foster a reparative social ethos towards state victims.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-406
Number of pages26
JournalPolitics, Philosophy and Economics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


  • apology
  • collective responsibility
  • democracy
  • injustice
  • reparations
  • war


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