Corporate Responsibility and Historical Injustice
Maeve McKeown (University College London)

January 22, 2024, 3:15pm - 4:45pm

This event is online


Stockholm University
University of Gothenburg
University of Vienna

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The Collective Ethics Seminar: Online Presentation – 22 January 2024 - 15.15 - 16.45 CET / 09.15 - 10.45 EST

Maeve McKeown (University of Groningen) – Corporate Responsibility and Historical Injustice

On Monday 22 January, Maeve McKeown will give an online presentation at the Collective Ethics Seminar entitled ‘Corporate Responsibility and Historical Injustice’. This chapter is part of McKeown’s upcoming book With Power Comes Responsibility: The Politics of Structural Injustice. For more information about her work, see

Abstract: In my book With Power Comes Responsibility: The Politics of Structural Injustice (Bloomsbury Academic, Feb 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.

The online seminar is open for all to attend. The session starts at 15.15 CET / 09.15 EST. You can join the session via the following link:

We hope to see you at the seminar!

Kind regards,

Gunnar Björnsson (Stockholm University), Olle Blomberg (University of Gothenburg), and Niels de Haan (University of Vienna)

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