The Political Responsibilities of Everyday Bystanders
By (author) Stephen L. Esquith
Publication date:28 February 2011
Length of book:256 pages
PublisherPenn State University Press
In a world where every person is exposed daily through the mass media to images of violence and suffering, as most dramatically exemplified in recent years by the ongoing tragedy in Darfur, the question naturally arises: What responsibilities do we, as bystanders to such social injustice, bear in holding accountable those who have created the conditions for this suffering? And what is our own complicity in the continuance of such violence—indeed, how do we contribute to and benefit from it? How is our responsibility as individuals connected to our collective responsibility as members of a society? Such questions underlie Stephen Esquith’s investigation in this book. For Esquith, being responsible means holding ourselves accountable as a people for the institutions we have built or tolerated and the choices we have made individually and collectively within these institutional constraints. It is thus more than just acknowledgment; it involves settling accounts as well as recognizing our own complicity even as bystanders.
“The Political Responsibilities of Everyday Bystanders is an imaginative, practical, well-argued, and wonderfully written work of moral philosophy, political theory, and democratic education, all at once. It somehow—to its great credit—exudes both calmness and urgency. Its moral and political judgments are balanced and moving, in places wise. It is eminently thoughtful, and it promises, in the hands of citizen teachers, to help inculcate or evince the political responsibilities that ‘everyday bystanders’ (including students and citizen teachers themselves) have in the face of political challenges and even ‘severe violence.’”
—James Farr, Northwestern University