Visiting Speaker Seminars

At the Visiting Speaker Seminar Series, a visiting international speaker will give a talk on a topic of their choice, which is then followed by a Questions and Answers session.

Maeve McKeown, Assistant Professor of Political Theory, University of Groningen

“Corporate Responsibility and Historical Injustice”

March 27th, 4pm, Room 5012, Arts Building, Trinity College Dublin

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In my book With Power Comes Responsibility: The Politics of Structural Injustice(Bloomsbury Academic, 2024), I argue that ordinary individuals are politically responsible for structural injustice, but powerful agents with the capacity to alleviate structural injustice and fail to do so, or who deliberately perpetuate it for their own gain, bear moral responsibility.

This raises the question: how can corporate agents bear moral responsibility? I argue that corporate entities can bear moral responsibility because their internal decision-making structure gives the corporate agent the capacity to a) reason about the world and b) act on the basis of those reasons.

I also provide reasons as to why it is valuable to hold corporate agents morally responsible. I argue further that this responsibility persists through time – as long as the corporate agent continues to exist, so does its obligations to repair for wrongdoings – which leads to another controversial topic in structural injustice theory: historical injustice.

Since some corporate entities exist over decades or even centuries, I claim that they continue to bear moral responsibility on the liability model for their wrongdoings. I discuss two difficulties raised by state liability through time in comparison to the responsibility of other corporate entities like corporations: the fact that states change and that citizens have to bear the costs.

Then I compare my approach to the other approaches relating structural and historical injustice; namely Young, and recent book-length treatments of the subject by Catherine Lu and Alasia Nuti. I conclude that by acknowledging the corporate responsibility of powerful agents over time, structural injustice theory can more fully integrate the liability model of responsibility, ensuring a more accurate and actionable distribution of responsibility for structural and historical injustice.

Past seminars:

May 25, 2023 | Kristin Voigt (McGill University) - ‘Relational equality, commemoration and denigrating names

February 16, 2023 |  Cristian Rettig Bianchi, (Universidad Adolfo Iban─ôz, Chile) - 'On the (unnecessary) thesis of forfeiture.'

October 19, 2022 | Simon Kirchin (Kent) - 'The normativity of fit', jointly with TCD Department of Philosophy.

February 22, 2022 | Jo Wolff (University of Oxford) - 'Structural harm, structural injustice, structural repair.'

December 9, 2021 | Ashwini Vasanthkumar (Queens University)  - 'Self-respect under conditions of oppression.’

July 8, 2021 | Cristián Rettig (Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, Chile) - ‘Towards an action-guiding theory of human rights.’

May 27, 2021 | Hannah Carnegy-Arbuthnott (University of York) - ‘The institutional point of self-ownership.’

April 22, 2021 | Gopal Sreenivasan (Duke University) - ‘The moral independence of legal human rights.’

March 25, 2021 | Rima Basu (Claremont McKenna College) - ‘Normative expectations.’

December 4, 2020 | Meena Krishnamurthy (Queen’s University, Ontario) - “Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development”.