Research

I work in the field of analytical political theory. Within that general area I am particularly interested in (1)  collective responsibility  and global justice and (2) the duties of beneficiaries from wrongdoing.  I am also working on a manuscript on the collective agency of the state. 


 

Abstracts of Selected  Publications 

                                                                                                                Please email me for PDFs of my  papers

‘Intending to Benefit from Wrongdoing’ (with Robert Goodin), Politics, Philosophy Economics (forthcoming).

Can it ever be wrong to benefit from the wrongdoing of someone else, if you did nothing to assist in that wrongdoing? One way, not previously noticed, is by intending to benefit from that wrongdoing. You might have committed a wrongful doing in forming such an intention. You might be worthy of some blame for that wrongful doing, even if as it subsequently transpires there was nothing you could have done to avoid benefiting from the other person's wrongdoing. This observation has important implication for the recent debate on the duties of beneficiaries from the wrongdoing of others. Some believe that the mere beneficiaries of wrongdoing ought to disgorge their tainted benefits. Others deny that claim. Both sides of this debate concentrate on unavoidable beneficiaries of the wrongdoing of others, which are presumed to be innocent themselves, by virtue of the fact they have not contributed to the wrong nor can avoid receiving the benefit. But, as we show, this presumption is mistaken for unavoidable beneficiaries that intend to benefit from wrongdoing.

‘The Impact of Corporate Tasks Responsibilities: A Comparison of Two Models’ Midwest Studies in Philosophy 38(1), 222-231, 2014.

In recent years, there is a growing consensus in the literature around the ‘corporate agency thesis’ – the  view that structured groups can qualify as moral agents in themselves, and may be held morally responsibility for their actions (in the sense of being blamed or praised), and also be assigned forward-looking responsibilities, such as duties of compensation or remedial duties. However, group agents’ task responsibilities are likely to have a ‘trickledown effect’ on individuals in the world, most commonly their members. To what extent is this trickledown effect normatively worrying, and under what circumstances may it be justified? The paper draws attention to two conceptually distinct ways in which this question has been addressed in recent literature. The first answer focuses on the effect on individuals as members of the group. The second answer focuses on the  'side effects' of corporate responsibility on individuals  as third parties. These conceptual differences ground further differences both in the nature and scope of justification of the impact of corporate responsibility

‘What’s wrong with Voluntary benefitting from Wrongdoing’, The Journal of Applied Philosophy 31(4), 377-391, 2014.

The Principle of Wrongful Benefits prescribes that beneficiaries from wrongdoing incur duties towards the victims of the wrongdoing. Traditionally, this principle has focused on involuntary beneficiaries, and limited the content of their duty to the disgorgement of their benefit. But the principle overlooks the duties of beneficiaries who are not straightforwardly involuntary. This paper addresses this gap in the literature. It explores the duties of ‘voluntary beneficiaries’, who know about the tainted source of their benefit and who could avoid receiving it; and the duties of ‘welcoming beneficiaries’, who know about the tainted source of their benefit and while cannot avoid receiving it, nevertheless welcome it. The paper demonstrates that in both cases, the duties of the beneficiary towards the victim of the wrongdoing are not limited to the disgorgement of the benefit. Rather, voluntary and welcoming beneficiaries are themselves involved in the commission of wrongdoing against the victim of the original wrongdoing; and for that reason owe the victim compensation that exceeds the level of their own benefit. This argument has various practical implications. e.g. in defining the duties of companies who benefit from human rights violations down their supply chain.

 'Limiting States’ Corporate Responsibility’, The Journal of Political Philosophy 21(4), 461-381, 2013.

 

States are usually considered to be collective agents and responsible for their polices. But when states are held corporately responsible, their individual citizens end up paying the price. This ‘trickle down effect’ of corporate responsibility is particularly troubling for states, because of their non-voluntary nature. This paper examines the conditions under which states’ corporate responsibility can be justified,  despite their non-voluntary nature. I reject attempts to tie states’ corporate responsibility to democratic procedures. Instead, using recent accounts of collective action, I argue that citizens should share their state’s liability if they are ‘intentional members’. The test for ‘intentional membership’ is not the presence of democratic institutions, but rather whether the state respects its citizens’ human rights.


'The Collective Responsibility of Democratic Publics’, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 41(1), 99-124, 2011.                                                     

Are democratic peoples collectively morally responsible (CMR) for their governments’ unjust policies? Many would object that: (a) democratic peoples are not institutionalized groups, so fail to qualify as collective moral agents; and (b) the people cannot be morally responsible for decisions made only indirectly by their government. In response I: (a) develop an account of collective agency which includes semi-structured groups, like democratic peoples; and (b) offer a typology of democratic representation that identifies those democratic models where a people is more likely to affect governmental decisions. I conclude that democratic peoples are CMR only in specific and rare circumstances.

'Sharing the Costs of Political Injustice’, Politics Philosophy Economics 10(2), 188-210, 2011.                                                                                   
It is commonly thought that democratic states who act wrongly are responsible for remedying the harm they caused. However, since states are collective agents, their financial burdens pass on to their individual citizens. HOw should these burdens be distributed between citizens?  The paper identifies two opposing models for distributing collective responsibility in democracies: in proportion to citizens’ personal association with the collective injustice, or giving an equal share of the burden to each citizen. It then evaluates both models, and builds an argument for equal distribution.

‘The Distributive Effect of Collective Punishment’ in R. Vernon and T. Issacs (eds.) Accountability for Collective Wrongdoing (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011)

The paper addresses one of the major moral problems that collective punishment raises, namely, the adverse impact that the punishment of a group has on it individual members. It seeks to define the different ways in which collective sanctions can be distributed between group members, and to assess the relative normative merits and demerits of these different distributions. This investigation contributes to our assessment of the moral permissibility and the limits of collective punishment.


‘Sanctioning Liberal Democracies’, Political Studies 57(1), 54-74, 2009.                             

The paper builds the case for international sanctions on liberal democracies that violate democratic norms. The argument is made from a 'nationalist'  standpoint, which recognizes the moral status of political communities. I suggest that nationalists  have strong reasons to support sanctions on unjust liberal democracies by other liberal democracies. the purpose of the sanctions would be to protect and reinforce the shared values of the community of liberal democracies in the world.