National responsibility

Political Theory 31 (5):693-719 (2003)
This article offers an account of the responsibility that individuals bear by virtue of their national belonging alone. Via their national pride, the living connect themselves actively with select actions performed by others who might long be dead. They imagine themselves as having won past wars, built ancient empires and the like. This same feat of their imagination imposes on them a responsibility for the bad outcomes that were brought about through their imagined exploits. Their national responsibility for the "sins of the fathers" however lends itself only to the kinds of responses that these living agents can demand of themselves. While their national responsibility can be captured by either the vocabulary of guilt or that of shame, the latter turns out to be more promising as it better accounts for the strong hold that the national idea has on contemporary political thinking
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