The Age of Responsibility

Luck, Choice, and the Welfare State

In the postwar years, if people were hungry, it was the state’s job to feed them — even if their going hungry was the result of their own poorly-managed finances. Today, that idea of welfare is barely recognizable.

Historians and sociologists have struggled to characterize our political moment. Various interpretations cite our "risk society" and that we live in the "age of globalization" or have entered a "new Gilded Age." But Yascha Mounk's new book, The Age of Responsibility, argues that we've entered an age in which personal responsibility has become not only a political watchword, but a cultural phenomenon.

Today, need-based assistance is often conditional on good, or "responsible," behavior. But when large swaths of the population feel that — despite their commitment to being responsible citizens — their standard of living continues to deteriorate, the welfare state is no longer fulfilling its function. Today's focus on individual culpability is both wrong and counterproductive; instead, Mounk argues, we need a conception of responsibility that doesn't punish individuals for past choices, but empowers them to take responsibility for themselves — and those around them.

Join New America NYC for a conversation with senior fellow Yascha Mounk and a panel of experts on the evolving nature of the welfare state and the meaning — and promise — of our responsibility to it.


Yascha Mounk @Yascha_Mounk
Senior Fellow, Political Reform Program, New America
Author, The Age of Responsibility: Luck, Choice, and the Welfare State

Robert Doar @RobertDoar
Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies, American Enterprise Institute
Former Commissioner, Human Resources Administration, City of New York

Sheri Berman
Professor of Political Science, Barnard College
Author, The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe's Twentieth Century

Madhav Khosla @M_Khosla
B. R. Ambedkar Academic Fellow, Columbia Law School
Author, The Indian Constitution

Copies of Yascha Mounk's The Age of Responsibility: Luck, Choice, and the Welfare State will be available for purchase. Join the conversation online by using #AgeofResponsibility and by following @NewAmericaNYC.