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Social justice and collective guilt: Diversity of opinion and practical implications

Pedersen, A. (2003) Social justice and collective guilt: Diversity of opinion and practical implications. In: 38th Annual Conference of the Australian Psychological Society, 2-5 October 2003, Sheraton Hotel, Perth, Western Australia.

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In the political climate in Australia today, collective guilt is an explosive issue, with varying strong opinions on both sides. However, research suggests that it is an important issue. In the American setting, it has been linked with support for compensatory affirmative action (Iyer et al., 2003). In the Australian setting, it has been linked with support for a government apology to Indigenous- Australians, as well as to perceived non-Indigenous responsibility for harsh treatment of Indigenous people (McGarty, et al., under review). Regardless of the above relationships, studies indicate that relatively few people report feeling a sense of collective guilt; therefore the ‘guilt’ angle may be an uphill battle. However, what I will argue is that if activists do engage in discussions about collective guilt, they need to specify the level of guilt they are referring to. There is a clear difference between feeling personally guilty for committing injustices against Indigenous-Australians, and feeling collectively guilty for the injustices Australia has - and is - committing. The practical implications of using collective guilt as a tool to achieve social justice goals are discussed.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology
Publisher: Wiley
Copyright: Australian Psychological Society
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