Collective responsibility, also known as collective guilt, refers to responsibilities of organizations, groups and societies. Collective responsibility in the form of collective punishment is often used as a disciplinary measure in closed institutions, e.g. boarding schools (punishing a whole class for the actions of one known or unknown pupil), military units, prisons (juvenile and adult), psychiatric facilities, etc. The effectiveness and severity of this measure may vary greatly, but it often breeds distrust and isolation among their members. Historically, collective punishment is a sign of authoritarian tendencies in the institution or its home society.
In ethics, both methodological individualists and normative individualists question the validity of collective responsibility. Normally, only the individual actor can accrue culpability for actions that they freely cause. The notion of collective culpability seems to deny individual moral responsibility. Contemporary systems of criminal law accept the principle that guilt shall only be personal. According to genocide scholar A. Dirk Moses, "The collective guilt accusation is unacceptable in scholarship, let alone in normal discourse and is, I think, one of the key ingredients in genocidal thinking."