On the (mis)behaviour in the financial sector: To what extent is society justified in blaming the individual banker?
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The financial crash of 2008 and the continuing misdoings in the financial sector are a source of trouble for society. And if there is trouble, we want to have someone or something to blame. In the context of the financial troubles, bankers are, understandably, common objects of blame. In this paper I tried to find out whether this blame is justified by looking into several possible justifications/excuses that could mitigate their blame. I have argued that the combination of two of these excuses in particular – the excuse of simply complying with society’s ideal of endless growth and the excuse of having a strong, individualistic ambition that is stimulated by society – can minimalize the blameworthiness of the individual banker that showed (and shows) risky, amoral behaviour. The implications of this analysis of blame go further than the simple (partial) excuse of the banker. Most importantly, it implies that the view that the causes of the problems in the financial world can be traced back to the financial sector and the individuals working in this sector is too limited. Consequently, addressing the problems in the financial world requires taking into account the additional causal mechanisms that lie in the particular arrangements of current Western societies.