Chapter

Nations, Overlapping Generations, and Historic Injustice

Daniel Butt

in Rectifying International Injustice

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780199218240
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191711589 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199218240.003.0006
Nations, Overlapping Generations, and Historic Injustice

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This chapter considers the question of the responsibility that present day generations bear as a result of the actions of their ancestors. Is it morally significant that we share a national identity with those responsible for the perpetration of historic injustice? The chapter argues that we can be guilty of wrongdoing stemming from past wrongdoing if we are members of nations that are responsible for an ongoing failure to fulfil rectificatory duties. This rests upon three claims: that the failure to fulfil rectificatory duties is unjust; that nations can bear collective responsibility for the actions of their leaders; and that nations are comprised of overlapping generations rather than successive generations. The claim that present day parties should apologise for historic injustice is then considered, and it is argued that such an apology is best understood in relation to an ongoing failure to fulfil rectificatory duties.

Keywords: ancestors; responsibility; national identity; collective responsibility; leaders; overlapping generations; successive generations; apology

Chapter.  10301 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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