Group Agency in Political Theory (MANCEPT 2024)

September 4, 2024 - September 6, 2024
MANCEPT, University of Manchester

United Kingdom

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Cambridge University

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Building on developments in social ontology (List & Pettit, 2012; Tollefsen, 2005; Rovane, 1997), in recent years political philosophers have become increasingly interested in the concept of group agency. The idea that groups, constituted in certain ways, can hold representational and motivational states and act in ways which are not entirely reducible to the mental states or action of individual members has significant implications for political theory. Indeed, many of the most common examples given of group agents are of groups or institutions which are of major political significance, including business corporations, political parties, and states themselves.

The application of these ways of conceiving of group agency to such groups raises a number of questions. Some of these questions relate to the duties and rights that groups might hold, and how the burdens of satisfying these duties can be justly distributed among members, in particular in relation to historical and ongoing injustices committed by the state (Lawford-Smith, 2019; Collins, 2022; Pasternak, 2021). Some are conceptual, concerning the nature of the group agency exhibited by different kinds of political groups, and whether they are in fact group agents at all (Moen, 2024; Pettit, 2023). Others concern the implications of conceiving of states and other political groups as group agents for our theories of other political concepts such as legitimacy, justice, egalitarianism, and democracy (Applbaum, 2019; Lovett, 2020; Lovett & Zuehl, 2022).

This panel aims to bring together scholars working across all areas of political philosophy on conceptual and normative questions relating to group agency. Submissions are invited on any topics in which the concept of group agency bears on questions in political philosophy. Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

- Which political groups and institutions (states, corporations, political parties, multinational organisations, courts, etc) can be thought of as group agents, if any?

- The duties of business corporations, and how this relates to questions of corporate regulation and governance.

- The duties of various political groups including transnational groups, states, and domestic political groups such as political parties.

- Whether the agency held by groups provide a basis for the granting of political rights (such as the right to vote) or non-political rights.

- The blameworthiness of group agents in general, or of particular kinds of political group agents, when they fail to satisfy their duties.

- How the burdens involved in discharging the duties held by the state (such as in relation to historical injustices or climate change) should be distributed among citizens.

- The relationship between the beliefs of groups and the beliefs of members in political contexts. To what extent are members of groups implicated in the beliefs of those groups?

- Should legitimacy be thought of in terms of free group agency (Applbaum, 2019)?

- To what extent does the justification of democracy relate to the group agency of the polity, or the state?

- Does conceiving of the state as a group agent have implications for international relations or the international legal system? And what does international relations tell us about the particular kind of agency exhibited by states?

- Can group agency theory be useful in conceiving of artificial intelligence systems, or in normative theorising about the ways in which these systems might be governed, regulated, or ascribed duties or rights (List, 2021)?

To submit a paper, please submit an abstract of 300-500 words to Alexander Bryan ([email protected]) by the end of 31st May 2024. Successful applicants will be notified by June 10th.

Conference Registration Fees: Academics: £295 PG: £165 Dinner (Academics): £40 Dinner (PG): £25 If you are a graduate student, MANCEPT has a small number of fee-waiver bursaries for which you can apply after acceptance. The deadline for bursary applications is June 28th.

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