Unit 1 Assignment 3, Davis: The Concept of Individual Responsibility, Nikolaos Paramythiotis


A concept presented by Angela Y. Davis in her text entitled “Recognizing Racism in the Era of Neoliberalism” which I found very interesting is the notion of “individual responsibility” and how it is perceived under the lens of Neoliberalism. According to the author, the prevalence of capitalism in the U.S. society results in the privatization of goods that are by their nature public. Among them “health care, education and social security” are services not provided by the state that seems not to take into consideration its less fortunate and impoverished citizens who have to provide solutions for their needs themselves, with their inability to do so resulting in their characterization as “lazy” or even “useless”. Moreover, Davis refers to correctional facilities, where there is a shocking overrepresentation of marginalized populations, and also the significant number of people belonging to this populations that face deprivation, in other words loss of their ability to vote. This, according to the perspective of Neoliberalism, is solemnly a result of private upbringing and personal sense of morality. Criminal behavior is not the responsibility of the state, but of the individual. However, this theory does not give credit to the life condition of individuals as a result of the form of society in which they live as a main reason because of which they exhibit criminal behavior. In other words, Neoliberalism does not recognize the structural form of racism, which often leads people to engage in criminal activity, and puts the weight on personal immorality and individual responsibility, something that the author finds illogical.

If I had a panel, the authors I would invite to engage in discussion with Angela Y. Davis are John Locke and Karl Marx, and the questions I would put forth would be the following:

  1. Do individuals have the ability to reason and therefore conclude themselves in moral standards?
  2. Why do individuals engage in criminal activity? Because of their individual way of thinking or as a result of the society they are a part of?
  3. Since injustice, marginalization of certain parts of the population and conflicts between different social groups are evident in every society, is there a way to resolve them and ensure harmonic coexistence?

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