Defining the values that underlie and unite progressives became an urgent question in the early 21st Century. Progressives came to recognize that, to a great degree, our political choices emerge from our sense of cultural identity and our emotional responses to stories and images, not from ‘rational’ cost-benefit analyses.
The phrase "personal responsibility" or "individual responsibility" has often been taken by the Left as code for conservative policies that reinforce the divide between the haves and the have-nots. That's not surprising: the Right routinely invokes the phrase to imply that government should not do much to help ordinary people, who should rather just help themselves.
This is not the kind of "individual responsibility" I am interested in here. But nor am I talking about the apparent alternative: abdicating personal responsibility by trusting a cadre of elites to promote our best interests through a variety of social programs and policies. Instead, I'm advocating an understanding of individual responsibility that goes beyond such traditional formulations, which tend to be more politically divisive than they are constructive.