The Ontology of Politics: Institutions, Movements, Agents, Action and Power

June 30, 2022 - July 1, 2022
Department of Philosophy, University of Groningen

Oude Boteringestraat 52
Groningen 9712 GL

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities


University of Groningen
Central European University


University of Amsterdam
University of Groningen

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Political and social theorists have seldom engaged explicitly with the ontological questions and assumptions pertaining to their theories and have instead proceeded as if such assumptions and questions could be easily bracketed. This workshop aims at addressing this gap. The workshop concerns a regional ontology. While social ontology inquires into the nature and origins of social entities characteristic of various contexts of being and experience, political ontology scrutinises the nature and origins of the set of objects, entities, kinds and categories that structure one particular sphere of social life, i.e., politics. Against this background, the workshop aims to explore the understanding of persons, institutions, collective agents, actions, and power in the context of different political theories, examine the coherence of such understandings, disclose internal tensions, and offer new perspectives.

The workshop aims at driving forward and enriching exchange between both young and more established academics who proceed from the perspective of the relatively underthematised field of political ontology. While social ontology has gained traction and considerable prominence in academic debates in the past decades, little has been produced in the subfield we term political ontology. Thus, the workshop seeks to address this lag by, on the one hand, scrutinizing the political ontological background assumptions of established political philosophies, and, on the other hand, employing ontological insights in the study of political phenomena.


Questions of political ontology are concerned with the nature and reality of political institutions strictly and broadly construed. Some suggested questions follow:

Is the state anything beyond an aggregate of individuals and their interconnections?
Where is the legal apparatus based upon?
What constitutes a political movement?
Assuming that politics demonstrate some law-like regularities (e.g., business cycle model) what is their nature? Are they independent of the agent’s power to change them?
Is the political sphere autonomous of other social spheres?
Are politics essential of human interaction or instrumental?
What is the nature of the relationship between power and politics? Does power ground/constitute/cause politics or the other way around?


This is a physical presence workshop. In the unfortunate scenario that an in-person event is not feasible, we will proceed in a hybrid or digital format.

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June 16, 2022, 11:45pm CET

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University of Amsterdam
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