Responsibility: The Many Faces of a Social Phenomenon

Responsibility: The Many Faces of a Social Phenomenon

Responsibility: The Many Faces of a Social Phenomenon

Responsibility: The Many Faces of a Social Phenomenon


This text argues that responsibility is a characteristic of fundamental importance for the survival of modern democratic structures. It represents a collection of psychological, philosophical and evolutionary approaches to the topic.


Abstract: Responsible action may occur in small social units like the family and in society at large as in the case of protection of the environment. Responsibility constructs a relationship between the individual and social units. We discuss problems which refer to the meaning of responsibility and outline conceptual similarities to related psychological phenomena. In addition, the objective of the book is described and the inter-disciplinary perspective is emphasised. In this context, a short introduction to the chapters of the book is given.

Key words: accountability; attribution; delay of gratification; free will; locus of control; moral development; responsibility; self-control

In the societies of the western world the subject of responsibility is increasing in importance. Issues of responsibility arise in small social units as well as in global societal structures. Responsibility establishes a connection between person and society.

Mothers and fathers who care for their children or a person who warns his colleague about taking up business with a questionable partner are examples of responsibility within small social units. The rise of new technologies and connected environmental hazards, the neglect of the poor and elderly, and the increase in violence and aggression among young people call attention to the fact that responsibility is a characteristic which is critical for the survival of modern democratic structures.

Therefore, it is not very surprising that currently much research in psychology, sociology and philosophy is devoted to the topic of responsibility. Our aim is to bring together these different perspectives in a single publication in order to facilitate the exchange of information concerning responsibility, deepen the understanding of it, and broaden its discussion among experts and students.

Some central questions concerning responsibility

What exactly is the phenomenon of responsibility? This question cannot yet be answered comprehensively. (In a sense this volume as a whole may be understood as an attempt to clarify this topic.) Our objective here is to offer a basis for this difficult undertaking by explaining various aspects which will allow a more precise definition of this complex

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