Salvör Nordal

Salvör Nordal, Director of Centre for Ethics at the University of Iceland and a teacher on ethics at the Department of Philosophy and History

Responsibility and institutions in democratic society

As one of the countries hardest hit by the financial crisis Iceland has for the past years been dealing with its aftermath both on economic and social level. This project focuses on two main reactions to the economic crisis: One looking at the causes of the crisis as portrayed in the report of the Special Investigation Commission (SIC) and the other looking towards the future and how institutions can be strengthened with revision of the Iceland’s constitution.

The financial crisis was primarily generated by enormous risk taken by bankers and business men, risk that eventually became the cost of the government and general public. The SIC’s report shows the reasons for failed responsibility in Iceland is both due to weaknesses of local institutions as well as global practices within the structure of the financial sector which fostered irresponsible actions. As will be explored in this project complex institution poses however challenge for our traditional understanding of individual responsibility and for instance have liberal theories been criticized both for overlooking actual practices and context of action as well as the neglecting the structuring role of institutions and the complex nature of responsibility.

Responsibility will also be the focus in the latter part of the project. Unlike the SIC report that looks to past actions the work of the Constitutional Council is looking at ways in which public institutions can be strengthened and responsibility restored both on governmental level and with suggestions of more direct democracy. Hence an analysis is needed on the relation of the constitution and democracy as a way of restoring justice and trust in the society.

Research Field and Areas: Philosophy, political science, ethics

Keywords: Economic crisis, responsibility, democracy, constitution

Presentations and publications