Department of Political Science


Avia Pasternak's "Responsible Citizens, Irresponsible States" - Book Launch

07 December 2021, 5:00 pm–7:00 pm


Book launch: Responsible Citizens, Irresponsible States: Should Citizens pay for Their State’s Wrongdoings? (OUP 2021) by Avia Pasternak

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Jeffrey Howard.

A summary of the book by Dr Avia Pasternak (UCL) with responses from Professor Jeff King (UCL) and Professor David Miller (Oxford).

States are often asked to pay compensation for their unjust wars, historical wrongs and international crimes. But when they turn to pay for their wrongdoings, it is the citizens who end up paying the price, even if they protested against the state’s policies, did not know about them, or had little political influence. So why should citizens pay for their state’s wrongdoings?

Responsible Citizens, Irresponsible States develops an answer to this question. It argues that citizenship can be a type of massive collective action, where citizens willingly take part in their state, and where state policies are the product of this collective action. While most ordinary citizens are not to blame for their participation in their state, they nevertheless ought to accept a share of the remedial obligations that flow from their state’s wrongful policies. But the book also shows that this is not true for all states. In some non-democratic states most citizens are not participating and should not pay for their state’s wrongdoings. The book’s findings call for a revision of the way we hold states responsible at the domestic and international levels.

  • Avia Pasternak is an Associate Professor in Political Theory at the Department of Political Science at UCL. She works on questions of collective responsibility and political obligations.
  • Jeff King is a Professor of Law in UCL’s Faculty of Laws. He works on comparative public law, international law, constitutional theory and socio-legal studies. His publications include The Future of Social Rights (CUP, 2019 ) and The Doctrine of Odious Debt in International Law: A Restatement (CUP, 2016).
  • David Miller is Professor of Political Theory at Nuffield College, Oxford. He has written extensively on national identity, responsibility, self-determination, immigration, and territorial rights.
  • The event will be chaired by Dr Jeffrey Howard.