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There is a word/phrase that I can't recall that is bothering me. It means to be able to take responsibility for a situation or to have the ability to control ones actions.

For example, if you "take away someone's __________" in a legal or societal sense, you remove their responsibility for themselves. Minors are considered not to have this thing, and slaves/people incarcerated would also be considered to not have it.

What is this word/phrase I'm thinking of?

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agency

dictionary.com

  1. the state of being in action or of exerting power; operation

http://thelawdictionary.org/discretionary-power/

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personal autonomy

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/personal_autonomy

The right of privacy has evolved to protect the freedom of individuals to choose whether or not to perform certain acts or subject themselves to certain experiences. This personal autonomy has grown into a 'liberty' protected by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. However, this liberty is narrowly defined and generally only protects privacy of family, marriage, motherhood, procreation, and child rearing. There have been attempts to further extend the right of privacy under the 1st, 4th, and 5th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution; however, a general right to personal autonomy has yet to take hold beyond limited circumstances.


culpability

http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/culpable

adj. sufficiently responsible for criminal acts or negligence to be at fault and liable for the conduct.

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    Oh, yep! The word I was thinking of was autonomy! – James Gould Jul 28 '16 at 22:22
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    @James G. ~ darn law speak >:( – user180089 Jul 28 '16 at 22:25
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I just came across:

self-determination

dictionary.com

  1. determination by oneself or itself, without outside influence.

This doesn't seem like exactly what I was thinking of and neither does Bobby's answer, so I'm going to leave the question open for now to see if the answer I was thinking of shows up and I recognize it, but I wanted to leave this answer for other people's future reference.

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The word you are looking for is ACCOUNTABILITY - the quality of being responsible for your actions expected to explain them when you are asked

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I usually think of it as autonomy:

The term autonomy literally refers to regulation by the self. Its opposite, heteronomy, refers to controlled regulation, or regulation that occurs without self-endorsement. At a time when philosophers and economists are increasingly detailing the nature of autonomy and recognizing its social and practical significance, many psychologists are questioning the reality and import of autonomy and closely related phenomena such as will, choice, and freedom. Using the framework of self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000), we review research concerning the benefits of autonomous versus controlled regulation for goal performance, persistence, affective experience, quality of relationships, and well-being across domains and cultures. We also address some of the controversies and terminological issues surrounding the construct of autonomy, including critiques of autonomy by biological reductionists, cultural relativists, and behaviorists. We conclude that there is a universal and cross-developmental value to autonomous regulation when the construct is understood in an exacting way.

Autonomy (noun) ~ Freedom from external control or influence; independence.

  • Autonomy is a human trait which is necessary for complete happiness and well-being.

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