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Seminar: The Group Agency of the State

  • Event Date 2020-02-11 10:00:00 ~ 2020-02-11 12:00:00


The Group Agency of the State


Mr.Li-kung Chen (Fellowship for Doctoral Candidate, Institutum Iurisprudentiae, Academia Sinica)

Time :

Feb 11, 2020 (10:00 a.m. ~12:00 p.m.)

Venue :

2nd Conference Room, Institutum Iurisprudentiae, Academia Sinica (9th Floor, North Building of Humanities and Social Science)


Mr. Wang(+886-2-2652-5404)



The Group Agency of the State

This essay concerns what a group is and how far a state can be one. It explores the particular idea of the group as an agent—a collective subject capable of acting intentionally, and analyses the nature of the state in this direction. The essay has two principal objectives. First, I seek to explain how a state can be a group by explaining the characteristic activities of the state as intentional group action. I develop two models. The first model focuses on the officials of the state, whose action alone jointly maintains the state’s characteristic activities, and in so doing, determines the people who are the members of the state but not of the active group agent. The second model comprises officials and citizens, whose action together maintains the state’s characteristic activities. In this situation, members of the state coincide with members of the group agent acting for the state. My intended contribution is twofold. The first model identifies official integration as a distinct way of group action for the state. This particular way is much ignored in current writings, as they are preoccupied, as in Anna Stilz and Richard Ekins’s discussions, with group action of citizens. My second model addresses citizen action, but provides a new analysis. It focuses on representative institutions, as opposed to direct democracy. In particular, I draw attention to voting, making new arguments about the possibility of voting being conducted by citizens acting as a group.

The second aim of the essay is to advance the understanding of group agency with the particular purpose of explaining group action in large, complex social settings as is typical of a state. I examine recent debates and identify two salient approaches. One, as exemplified by Margaret Gilbert’s account, gives primacy to group intention as a special kind of intention and conceptualises group agency accordingly. The other, as found in Scott Shapiro and Brian Epstein’s explanations, dismisses the necessity of such a special intention and argues for a more flexible account based on coordination. I defend the first approach and contend that the second ultimately weakens group agency as a distinct category for understanding human (inter)actions.