Photo Credit: Randy Stewart
The idea is simple: By taking responsibility for our emotions and what happens to us we rid ourselves of dependence and thereby potential weakness.
By accepting wholeheartedly the value of personal responsibility we become empowered – for no longer do we allow our lives to be dictated by sheer happenstance or the unpredictable whims of others.
Personal responsibility is not merely a core value of much self-help.
Harvard political scientist Yascha Mounk has recently argued we are today living in The Age of Responsibility.
Lauded in presidential speeches as well as bestselling books (like Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life) the value of personal responsibility has become central to contemporary moral and political discourse.
Yet this has not always been so.
Mounk describes the historical shift from a conception of ‘responsibility-as-duty’ prior to the 1960s – to a conception of ‘responsibility-as-accountability’ that emerged forcefully during the tenures of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
This has since become common sense.
In the wake of the ‘neoliberal turn’ collective responsibility was exchanged for a myopic obsession with encouraging individuals to become self-sufficient.
This shift in the meaning of responsibility has redirected attention from wider structural transformations to the actions of individuals and in the process led to the scaling back of the Welfare State.