On Complicity and Compromise

ISBN : 9780198746874

Chiara Lepora; Robert E. Goodin
192 ページ
156 x 235 mm

'Taxpayers are complicit in the illegal wars waged by their governments.' 'Corporations are complicit in human rights abuses perpetrated by their suppliers.' 'Aid workers who compromise with militias are complicit in their reign of terror.' We hear such allegations all the time. Yet there are many ways of being mixed up with the wrongdoing of others. They are not all on a par, morally; some are worse than others. Furthermore, complicitly contributing to wrongdoing, while still wrong in itself, might nonetheless be the right thing to do if that is the only way to achieve some greater good. Drawing on philosophy, law and political science, and on a wealth of practical experience delivering emergency medical services in conflict-ridden settings, Lepora and Goodin untangle the complexities surrounding compromise and complicity: carefully cataloguing their many varieties; identifying the dimensions along which those differ; and explaining why some are morally more worrying than others. Lepora and Goodin summarize their analysis in a formula that can be used as a decision heuristic for assessing any given act of complicity. They go on to illustrate its practical usefulness by applying it first to some stylized philosophical examples and then, in a more sustained way, to two vexing cases of complicity in the real world: the complicity of humanitarian aid organizations with genocidaires controlling Rwandan refugee camps; and the complicity of physicians treating patients who are being subjected to torture. Both rigorous and rooted, this is a book for philosophers and practitioners alike.


1. Introduction: A Messy Moral Landscape
2. Compromise as a Template
3. Complicity and Its Conceptual Cousins
4. Grading Engagement with Wrongdoing: Dimensions of Difference
5. Responsibility for Complicity: A Minimum Threshold
6. Assessing Complicit Actions: A General Framework
7. Organizational Complicity: Rwandan Refugee Camps
8. Individual Complicity: The Tortured Patient
9. Conclusion: Complicity is as Complicity Does


Chiara Lepora trained as a medical practitioner at the Universities of Pavia and Lisbon and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, she has worked with MSF in various capacities across Africa and the Middle East. An interactive tutorial that she wrote underpins the e-learning software used by the World Health Organisation and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for clinical management of rape in humanitarian emergencies. After a 2008-2010 mid-career Fellowship in Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health, Lepora taught Global Health Affairs at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies of the University of Denver for a year before returning to MSF. She currently works with Medecins sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders as Programme Manager responsible for operations across the Middle East. ; Robert Goodin is a political philosopher with an appointment in the School of Philosophy at Australian National University. He is founding editor of The Journal of Political Philosophy, coeditor of the British Journal of Political Science and General Editor of the eleven-volume Oxford Handbooks of Political Science. A Fellow of the British Academy, he has given the Dewey Lecture at the University of Chicago Law School, the Edmund Burke Lecture at Trinity College, Dublin, and the Lee Lecture at All Souls College, Oxford. His coauthored book Discretionary Time (CUP 2008) won the Stein Rokkan Prize for Comparative Social Science Research. He was Senior Research Fellow in Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health during 2009-2010.