On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza factory complex in Savar, Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,127 people. This is the worst incident in a long history of fires and building collapses in sweatshops. When such disasters occur, responsibility ascriptions are notoriously complex and clumsy. In this case the factory owners were held criminally responsible. But moral responsibility was ascribed to many other agents, from the Bangladeshi government for failing to implement proper labour standards, to multinational clothing companies who bought clothes made in the factory, to individual consumers of the products.
When international economic activity leads to severe harms responsibility ascriptions are not clearly understood, allowing blame to be passed from one agent to another without resolve. This problem applies not only to catastrophe but also to chronic economic harms. Complex processes involving countless individuals and multiple public and private institutional actors, transcending national legal systems, enable the majority of actors to wash their hands of responsibility.
This one-day conference aims to raise and explore problems surrounding the following questions: do we have responsibilities as participants in the global economy? What are the grounds of these responsibilities? What kinds of responsibilities are they? What are the responsibilities of different types of individual and collective agents such as citizens, consumers, states and corporations?
Suggested topics for papers include but are not limited to:
- Economic interaction and responsibility
- Consumer responsibility
- Institutional responsibility – states and international institutions
- Global trade governance
- Analytic accounts of responsibility – benefit, complicity, upholding unjust institutions
- Continental accounts of responsibility – political responsibility, responsibility for the other
- Responsibility for exploitation
- Moral psychology and responsibility
- Fair trade
- Conflicts between ethics and efficiency
- The possibility/impossibility of “responsible” capitalism
We welcome submissions from political theorists, philosophers and academics from related disciplines at any career level, including post-graduates and early career researchers. We particularly welcome submissions from women and people of colour.
In order to make a submission, please send an email with an anonymous abstract (500 words max.) attached to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 21 March 2014.
Keynote Speaker: Elizabeth Ashford (St Andrews)
The conference will be held on 21 May 2014 at University College London.