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How did ‘personal responsibility’ evolve into its opposite, ‘everyone for themselves’?

Before the Industrial Age, Western concepts of ‘responsibility’ often evoked a duty to others, particularly those in greatest need. Over the past two centuries, however, the word has come to connote the more inward-looking framework of ‘individual responsibility’, often deployed as an argument against the moral and social necessity of welfare structures. Carefully piecing together a vast range of sources and scenes in this video essay, the English YouTuber Lewis Waller attempts to trace how the idea of ‘responsibility’ became inverted. In doing so, he makes an argument for a more expansive understanding of individual responsibility that encompasses personal development as well as mutual obligation.

Video by Then & Now

16 September 2021

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