Lawford-Smith, Holly. Not In Their Name: Are Citizens’ Culpable for Their States’ Actions? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).
Abstract: There are many actions that we attribute, at least colloquially, to states. Given their size and influence, states are able to inflict harm far beyond the reach of a single individual. But there is a great deal of unclarity about exactly who is implicated in that kind of harm, and how we should think about responsibility for it. It is a commonplace assumption that democratic publics both authorize and have control over what their states do; that their states act in their name and on their behalf. In Not In Their Name, Holly Lawford-Smith approaches these questions from the perspective of social ontology, asking whether the state is a collective agent, and whether ordinary citizens are members of that agent. If it is, and they are, there’s a clear case for democratic collective culpability. She explores alternative conceptions of the state and of membership in the state; alternative conceptions of collective agency applied to the state; the normative implications of membership in the state; and both culpability (from the inside) and responsibility (from the outside) for what the state does. Ultimately, Lawford-Smith argues for the exculpation of ordinary citizens and the inculpation of those working in public services.
Prizes: An earlier version of this book won the GRIPP 2018 Annual Montreal Political Theory Manuscript Award.
Podcasts: Matthews, Beth. ‘Dr Holly Lawford-Smith: Are Citizens Culpable for States’ Actions?‘, 3CR Radical Philosophy, 4th May 2019.
Videos: JJ Joaquin, Philosophy & What Matters, Episode 17: Collective Agents with Holly Lawford-Smith (UniMelb), 26th October 2020.