Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-t4qhp Total loading time: 0.254 Render date: 2022-08-20T05:08:34.102Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

We the People: Is the Polity the State?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 February 2021

STEPHANIE COLLINS
Affiliation:
AUSTRALIAN CATHOLIC UNIVERSITYstephanie.collins@acu.edu.au
HOLLY LAWFORD-SMITH
Affiliation:
UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNEholly.lawford-smith@unimelb.edu.au

Abstract

When a liberal-democratic state signs a treaty or wages a war, does its whole polity do those things? In this article, we approach this question via the recent social ontological literature on collective agency. We provide arguments that it does and that it does not. The arguments are presented via three considerations: the polity's control over what the state does; the polity's unity; and the influence of individual polity members. We suggest that the answer to our question differs for different liberal-democratic states and depends on two underlying considerations: (1) the amount of discretion held by the state's officeholders; (2) the extent to which the democratic procedure is deliberative rather than aggregative.

Type
Article
Copyright
Copyright © American Philosophical Association 2021

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Footnotes

We are grateful to audiences at Århus University, Umeå University, Edinburgh University, the University of Warwick, the University of Melbourne, the Australian National University, the London School of Economics, Monash University, the Society for Applied Philosophy's 2017 conference, the European Network for Social Ontology's 2017 conference, the Open University, the 2017 Mancept Workshops in Political Theory, the 2017 meeting of the New Zealand Association for Philosophy at the University of Otago, and the Dianoia Institute of Philosophy at the Australian Catholic University. For comments on written versions, we thank Bob Goodin, Christine Hobden, Daniel Muñoz, Ben Sachs, Anselm Spindler, and the research group on the normative and moral foundations of group agency at the University of Vienna. Stephanie Collins worked on this article while she was a visiting research professor at the University of Vienna, for which it received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement No. 740922). Other parts of her work on this article received financial support under the Australian Research Council's Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (project no. DE200101413).

References

Ackerman, Bruce. (1993) We the People, Vol. 1, Foundations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Adams, Robert Merrihew. (1985) ‘Involuntary Sins’. Philosophical Review, 94, 331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barro, Robert J. (1973) ‘The Control of Politicians: An Economic Mode’. Public Choice, 14, 1942.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Beerbohm, Eric. (2012) In Our Name: The Ethics of Democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Blake, Michael. (2001) ‘Distributive Justice, State Coercion, and Autonomy’. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 30, 257–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bratman, Michael E. (1992) ‘Shared Cooperative Activity’. Philosophical Review, 101, 327–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bratman, Michael. (1999) Faces of Intention: Selected Essays on Intention and Agency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bratman, Michael. (2014) Shared Agency: A Planning Theory of Acting Together. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Broockman, David E., and Butler, Daniel M.. (2017) ‘The Causal Effects of Elite Position-Taking on Voter Attitudes: Field Experiments with Elite Communication’. American Journal of Political Science, 61, 208–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Canovan, Margaret. (2005) The People. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.Google Scholar
Ciepley, David. (2017) ‘Is the U.S. Government a Corporation? The Corporate Origins of Modern Constitutionalism’. American Political Science Review, 111, 418–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Diermeier, Daniel, and Li, Christopher. (2017) ‘Electoral Control with Behavioral Voters’. Journal of Politics, 79, 890902.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Downs, Anthony. (1957) An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
Dryzek, John S. (2002) Deliberative Democracy and Beyond: Liberals, Critics, Contestations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Effective Altruisim. (n.d.) ‘Importance, Tractability, Neglectedness Framework’. EA Concepts. Accessed November 1, 2020. https://concepts.effectivealtruism.org/concepts/importance-neglectedness-tractability/.Google Scholar
Epstein, Brian. (2015) The Ant Trap: Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Erskine, Toni, ed. (2003) Can Institutions Have Responsibilities? Collective Moral Agency and International Relations. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Erskine, Toni. (2001) ‘Assigning Responsibilities to Institutional Moral Agents: The Case of States and Quasi-states’. Ethics & International Affairs, 15, 6785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eskridge, William N. Jr., and Ferejohn, John. (2010) A Republic of Statutes: The New American Constitution. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Ferejohn, John. (1986) ‘Incumbent Performance and Electoral Control’. Public Choice, 50, 525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fischer, John Martin, and Ravizza, Mark. (1998) Responsibility and Control: A Theory of Moral Responsibility. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Foa, Roberta Stefan, and Mounk, Yascha. (2016) ‘The Danger of Deconsolidation: The Democratic Disconnect’. Journal of Democracy, 27, 517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
French, Peter. (1984) Collective and Corporate Responsibility. New York: Columbia University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gerber, Marlène, and Mueller, Sean. (2018) ‘When the People Speak—and Decide: Deliberation and Direct Democracy in the Citizen Assembly of Glarus, Switzerland’. Policy & Politics, 46, 371–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gilbert, Margaret. (1990) ‘Walking Together: A Paradigmatic Social Phenomenon’. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 15, 114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gilbert, Margaret. (2006) A Theory of Political Obligation: Membership, Commitment, and the Bonds of Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Guerrero, Alexander A. (2010) ‘The Paradox of Voting and the Ethics of Political Representation’. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 38, 272306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gundelach, Birte, Buser, Patricia, and Kübler, Daniel. (2017) ‘Deliberative Democracy in Local Governance: The Impact of Institutional Design on Legitimacy’. Local Government Studies, 43(2), 218244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hobbes, Thomas. (2006) Leviathan. Edited by Oakeshott, Michael. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.Google Scholar
Inglehart, Ronald F. (2016) ‘The Danger of Deconsolidation: How Much Should We Worry?Journal of Democracy, 27, 1823.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kincaid, Harold. (1986) ‘Reduction, Explanation, and Individualism’. Philosophy of Science, 53, 492513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kogan, Vladimir. (2016) ‘When Voters Pull the Trigger: Can Direct Democracy Restrain Legislative Excesses?Legislative Studies Quarterly, 41, 297325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lewis, David. (1986) On the Plurality of Worlds. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
List, Christian. (2014) ‘Three Kinds of Collective Attitudes’. Erkenntnis, 79, 1601–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
List, Christian, and Pettit, Philip. (2011) Group Agency: The Possibility, Design, and Status of Corporate Agents. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
List, Christian, and Spiekermann, Kai. (2013) ‘Methodological Individualism and Holism in Political Science: A Reconciliation’. American Political Science Review, 107, 629–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MacDonagh, Oliver. (1961) A Pattern of Government Growth 1800–60: The Passenger Acts and their Enforcement. London: MacGibbon and Kee.Google Scholar
Mansbridge, Jane, Bohman, James, Chambers, Simone, Christiano, Thomas, Fung, Archon, Parkinson, John, Thompson, Dennis F., and Warren, Mark E.. (2012) ‘A Systemic Approach to Deliberative Democracy’. In Parkinson, John and Mansbridge, Jane (eds.), Deliberative Systems (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 126.Google Scholar
McAdam, Doug, Tarrow, Sidney, and Tilly, Charles. (2001) Dynamics of Contention. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Menzies, Peter. (2014) ‘Counterfactual Theories of Causation’. In Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2017/entries/causation-counterfactual/.Google Scholar
Miller, David. (1995) On Nationality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Müller, Jan-Werner. (2011) Contesting Democracy: Political Ideas in Twentieth-Century Europe. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Parfit, Derek. (1984) Reasons and Persons. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
Parrish, John M. (2009) ‘Collective Responsibility and the State’. International Theory, 1, 119–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pasternak, Avia. (2011) ‘Sharing the Costs of Political Injustices’. Politics, Philosophy & Economics, 10, 188210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pettit, Philip. (2004) ‘Depoliticizing Democracy’. Ratio Juris, 17, 5265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pettit, Philip. (2007) ‘Responsibility Incorporated’. Ethics, 117, 171201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pettit, Philip. (2012) On the People's Terms: A Republican Theory and Model of Democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rawls, John. (1993) Political Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Ritchie, Katherine. (2013) ‘What Are Groups?’. Philosophical Studies, 166, 257–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rovane, Carol. (1998) Bounds of Agency: An Essay in Revisionary Metaphysics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schmitt, Eric, Cooper, Helene, and Chivers, C.J.. (2017) ‘A Giant U.S. Bomb Carries an Even Bigger Message’. New York Times, April 14. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/14/world/asia/bomb-afghanistan.html.Google Scholar
Shockley, Kenneth. (2007) ‘Programming Collective Control’. Journal of Social Philosophy, 38, 442–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Soroka, Stuart, and Wlezien, Christopher. (2010) Degrees of Democracy: Politics, Public Opinion, Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stilz, Anna. (2009) Liberal Loyalty: Freedom, Obligation, and the State. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stilz, Anna. (2011) ‘Collective Responsibility and the State’. Journal of Political Philosophy, 19, 190208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stimson, James A., MacKuen, Michael B., and Erikson, Robert S.. (1995) ‘Dynamic Representation’. American Political Science Review, 89, 543–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Szigeti, András. (2014) ‘Collective Responsibility and Group-Control’. In Zahle, Julie and Finn, Colin (eds.), Rethinking the Individualism-Holism Debate (Cham: Springer), 97116.Google Scholar
Tamir, Yael. (1993) Liberal Nationalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tollefsen, Deborah. (2015) Groups as Agents. Cambridge, MA: Polity.Google Scholar
Tuomela, Raimo. (2013) Social Ontology: Collective Intentionality and Group Agents. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Valentini, Laura. (2015) ‘On the Distinctive Procedural Wrong of Colonialism’. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 43, 312–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Walzer, Michael. (1980) ‘The Moral Standing of States: A Response to Four Critics’. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 9, 209–29.Google Scholar
Wasserman, Ryan. (2016) Theories of Persistence’. Philosophical Studies, 173, 243–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wendt, Alexander. (2004) ‘The State as Person in International Theory’. Review of International Studies, 30, 289316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yablo, Stephen. (1992) ‘Mental Causation’. Philosophical Review, 101, 245–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Young, Iris Marion. (2012) Responsibility for Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Ypi, Lea. (2013) ‘What's Wrong with Colonialism’. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 41, 158–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

We the People: Is the Polity the State?
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

We the People: Is the Polity the State?
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

We the People: Is the Polity the State?
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *