Collective entities and nominal groups.

Translated from French to English – apparently will be on “pluralistic ontology”, according to a Ukrainian philosophy paper that I had to go to the internet archive from 2017 to retrieve, who gave it high praise. Have not yet read, just posting.
 
Collective entities and nominal groups.
The question of the status of groups has been at the heart of theological, legal, philosophical and political controversies for several centuries. It is natural that this question has been asked repeatedly in the social sciences since their birth, and in particular in political science. In its most elementary formulation, the controversy opposes two clear-cut positions: one considers that the very existence of groups must be recognized and that its taking into account is necessary for the understanding of political phenomena; the other considers that the invocation of these groups or collective entities is only a convenience of language and that the detailed description and the explanation of the phenomena must be based only on human individuals, unique constituents of societies,and their relationships.
 
2Debates on the validity of these positions have often taken on the aspect of a methodological quarrel, notably opposing methodological individualism and holism. The quarrel was sometimes confused, on the one hand, because there were several different positions in each camp, and on the other hand, because the protagonists of one camp tended to caricature the positions of the other. Thus the opponents of methodological individualism have often confused it with the theory of rational choice, while the contemptors of holism have wrongly equated the latter with determinism. In France, this quarrel was for example a time personified by the opposition between Pierre Bourdieu and Raymond Boudon. But the most precise authors have not failed to point out that theopposition of methods was inseparable from an opposition between ontologies, as Karl Popper had explained,The misery of historicism , by associating the methodological individualism that he advocated with an assumed nominalism.
 
3The reason why it seems useful to us to propose an issue on this theme is that the terms of the debate have undergone a change as important as it is interesting over the past twenty years, in particular in the field of political theory. In any case, it is a new theorization of the relationship between philosophy and social sciences that has brought new ways of thinking about groups. Among the best known are three examples: works on collective intention, and the conditions for the formation of an “we”, by Margaret Gilbert, John Searle and Raimo Tuomela  [1] ; the work of Christian List and Philip Pettit on the possibility of constituting groups as agents, based on the discursive dilemma and the concept of supervenience  [2] ; finally in French, the work of Vincent Descombes on the logic of holistic description  [3] . It is interesting to note that these lines of research refer to competing philosophies of action: the first two relate to a mentalist conception of practical intention, which can be referred to the seminal works of Donald Davidson  [4] ; while the third is linked to a structural conception of intention, for which Elizabeth Anscombe is the reference philosopher  [5] . It is useful for the proper understanding of social or political theories to see how deeply their differences are rooted in the adoption of distinct metaphysics or ontologies.
 
4One of the marks of this evolution is the displacement of previous oppositions, and sometimes their scrambling. Certain authors base themselves on the avenues opened by the works of Margaret Gilbert or Philip Pettit to articulate certain features of holism and certain other features of methodological individualism  [6] . For his part, Vincent Descombes, following Louis Dumont, reformulated and reassessed holism, often characterized in an ad hoc manner by its adversaries; he gave a positive version of it that can be assimilated by the social sciences from the logic of the relations between parts and totalities and from the concept of objective spirit  [7]. More recently still, Christian List and Kai Spiekermann rejected methodological individualism, on the grounds that it ignores “supervening” entities, while claiming a strictly individualistic ontology  [8] ; on the other hand, we can consider that a holistic approach must oblige itself to restore the rationality of individual actors, while rejecting a monist ontology  [9]. This complexification modifies and softens the division of labor between philosophers on the one hand, and sociologists, anthropologists and political scientists on the other. The former must further specify their objects of reflection and in doing so take into account the positive knowledge accumulated by the social sciences; the second are more concerned with the ontological commitments associated with the propositions that they are led to advance in their specialized work. In doing so, the social ontology of groups has become a meeting place between philosophy and social sciences  [10] .
 
5This issue is based on a conviction: ontological questioning is essential to grasp the nature and function of groups in political theory. The ontological status granted to groups governs the ways of identifying and describing them. It therefore has essential consequences on the ways of situating these groups in a set of social phenomena and in the causal chains that the explanation seeks to discriminate. This statute also has normative consequences: on what basis can we attribute a specific responsibility to a group? Moreover, how does this responsibility specific to the group, if it can be affirmed, affect that attributable to the individuals who are its members  [11] ?
 
6One of the major contributions of the work of the last twenty years, whatever their orientation, is to have proposed a heuristically fruitful conceptual distinction, most often neglected in previous disputes: that between collections, nominal groups and entities. collective. Collections, also called aggregates or lists, refer to a simple plurality of individuals. The collection does not have a stable temporal identity because the addition or removal of an element is enough to change its nature. The other two types of groups have the peculiarity of enduring, even when their individual constituents change. Nominal groups bring together individuals on the basis of a common characteristic. They may only be a view of thespirit or simply refer to statistical artefacts with no particular social significance, such as all French people measuring 1.73 m, but they can also be based on characteristics that directly concern the social condition of individuals (socio-economic classes for example ) and which elicit positive or negative reactions or are the subject of targeted policies of negative or positive discrimination (racialized groups, for example). Collective entities are very different: the individuals they bring together are not united on the basis of a common trait, but on that of their participation in the same entity having the status of an agent. Standard examples of collective entities are the State, the Church, a company or an associationa company or an associationa company or an associationa company or an associationa company or an associationall French people measuring 1.73 m, but they can also be based on characteristics which directly concern the social condition of individuals (socio-economic classes for example) and which arouse positive or negative reactions or are the subject of policies targeted negative or positive discrimination (racialized groups for example). Collective entities are very different: the individuals they bring together are not united on the basis of a common trait, but on that of their participation in the same entity having the status of an agent. Standard examples of collective entities are the State, the Church, a company or an associationall French people measuring 1.73 m, but they can also be based on characteristics which directly concern the social condition of individuals (socio-economic classes for example) and which arouse positive or negative reactions or are the subject of policies targeted negative or positive discrimination (racialized groups for example). Collective entities are very different: the individuals they bring together are not united on the basis of a common trait, but on that of their participation in the same entity having the status of an agent. Standard examples of collective entities are the State, the Church, a company or an associationlean on characteristics which directly concern the social condition of individuals (socio-economic class for example) and which elicit positive or negative reactions or are the subject of targeted policies of negative or positive discrimination (racialized groups for example). Collective entities are very different: the individuals they bring together are not united on the basis of a common trait, but on that of their participation in the same entity having the status of an agent. Standard examples of collective entities are the State, the Church, a company or an associationlean on characteristics which directly concern the social condition of individuals (socio-economic class for example) and which elicit positive or negative reactions or are the subject of targeted policies of negative or positive discrimination (racialized groups for example). Collective entities are very different: the individuals they bring together are not united on the basis of a common trait, but on that of their participation in the same entity having the status of an agent. Standard examples of collective entities are the State, the Church, a company or an associationCollective entities are very different: the individuals they bring together are not united on the basis of a common trait, but on that of their participation in the same entity having the status of an agent. Standard examples of collective entities are the State, the Church, a company or an associationCollective entities are very different: the individuals they bring together are not united on the basis of a common trait, but on that of their participation in the same entity having the status of an agent. Standard examples of collective entities are the State, the Church, a company or an association [12] .
 
7This distinction is essential, but the initiatives of the actors can help to articulate the types of groups that it discriminates against. The members of a nominal group may become aware of being associated, then affected jointly, through their common characteristic and, as such, they are likely to develop collective initiatives and to form a collective entity. Thus, a social class or a racialized group cannot undoubtedly claim the status of an agent group (whereas a political party or an association responsible for the defense of their interests will be considered without hesitation as collective entities or agent groups. ), but they can exhibit properties that distinguish them from nominal groups in the strict sense  [13] .
 
8The contrast between nominal group and collective entity seemed to us sufficiently fruitful to form the central axis of the number we are proposing. On the one hand, because nominal groups and collective entities do not have the same criteria of identity, do not pose the same epistemological problems or the same normative problems. On the other hand, because taken separately or considered together when considering their possible hybridization, they allow us to consider a wide range of groups relevant to political sociology and political science  [14] .
 
9Vincent Descombes’ article explains the difference between nominal group and collective entity in order to shed light on the application of the concept of identity to groups. First, it dispels a frequent confusion between two meanings of the term “identity”. In the logical sense, identity is relative to identification; in the sense of moral psychology, the term refers to a qualification of oneself, of an individual or of a group. On this basis, Vincent Descombes demonstrates the relevance of the distinction between social identity and collective identity. Social identity is that of an individual belonging to a nominal group, that is to say of an individual who shares with others one or more characteristics carrying expectations; the collective identity is that ofan entity and not that of the individuals who compose it.
 
10Philippe Pettit and Christian List recently proposed an ambitious theory of agent groups. The Group Agency publicationin 2011, where they systematically expose the main aspects of their theory, was preceded by the publication of numerous articles. We offer a slightly abbreviated translation of one of them. In “Responsibility incorporated”, Philip Pettit endeavors to show that a group, as such, can present the capacities and the main properties of a responsible agent. In order for them to be attributable to the group, these capacities and properties must be specific to it and therefore, according to him, they must not be assimilated to the actions and responsibilities of the members of the group. The article specifies three conditions necessary for the attribution of the status of responsible agent autonomy, judgment and control and specifies how groups are likely to satisfy them.
 
11Bruno Gnassounou takes up the classic question of the nature of the contract. These are bilateral contracts, for which the obligation of each contracting party to perform an action is conditioned by the respect of the same obligation by the other. He shows that the theory of the contract understood as an exchange of two promises cannot account for the interdependence of promises presupposed by the contract. Each promise generates an unconditional obligation. At the end of her examination, which leads her to discuss the notion of Margaret Gilbert’s joint commitment, Gnassounou puts forward the idea that the reciprocity of the obligations generated by the contract presupposes a collective body of contractors.
 
12Philippe Urfalino offers a critical examination of the theory of agent groups proposed by Christian List and Philip Pettit. He shows that it accounts for a too restricted part of collective entities and that its weak empirical coverage results from the weaknesses of the nominalist social philosophy of the two authors. He then proposes an alternative conception of collective entities inspired in particular by the notion of “composite legal person” invented by Samuel von Pufendorf. Finally, he compares the different ways that these two approaches have of conceiving the constitution and the mode of existence of collective entities.
 
13It is from the angle of the history of ideas that Sandrine Baume’s article contributes to this issue by examining the organicist doctrines of the state that emerged at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. After a reasoned assessment of the ways of characterizing these doctrines, the author proposes hypotheses to explain their success and their decline. This historical clarification appeared useful to us insofar as, born from the need to account for collective entities, the attraction of the organicist analogy then the justified criticism of its faults and its dangers have long hampered the search for theories. more satisfying.
 
14Three types of particular groups are then studied in the following three contributions, which question the status of these groups and the type of social ontology that makes it possible to apprehend their status.
 
15Magali Bessone explores the status of racialized groups and tackles the ontological question with a normative aim: knowing what type of collective being racialized groups form is essential in order to know what we must do with these groups. It shows that two constructivist perspectives clash today, both opposed to a certain type of essentialist naturalism: that according to which racialized groups are strictly nominal groups and those according to which they are constructed and real groups . She suggests that these are not just series, but real social groups that a social justice perspective cannot simply ignore.
 
16It is the status of the family, between individual and group, which is the object of Gideon Calder’s contribution. It first proposes the mapping of a certain number of inseparably theoretical and normative positions on the status of the family, which can be grouped into two main categories: those for which families are “macro-individuals” and those for which they are “micro-groups”. He then identifies the criteria operating for such a typology and defends the idea that the family is a group defined neither simply by shared beliefs, nor by a common culture. However, argues Calder, it is fundamental to consider it as a group because of the particular influence it exerts on individuals, from a relational perspective,in order to provide the means to theorize the issues and risks that it poses specifically to social justice.
 
17Olivier Ouzilou is interested in political parties and organizations and how these groups can be “epistemically destabilized”. The social identity of political parties is intimately linked to their epistemic identity: the set of central values ​​and beliefs expressed by a party constitute both its framework for interpreting the social world, which allows it to understand and to signify such and such a fact as a given in favor of such thesis, and by what the party is identified as such, that is to say the whole of the constituent elements of the identity of the party. Thus the credibility of a party depends to a large extent on its loyalty to its constitutive beliefs. This is why interactions between political parties consist in trying toweaken the status of the opposing party as a coherent epistemic subject, an epistemic destabilization which always affects its social identity and thus represents the “Achilles heel” of political parties.
 
18The first chapter of Samuel von Pufendorf’s book On the Law of Nature and People offers a neglected conception of collective entities conceived as “composite legal persons”. However, the work published in Latin 1672 is only available, in French, in the translation by Jean de Barbeyrac dating from 1706 and, in English, in the translation by Basil Kenneth dating from 1729. Bruno Gnassounou agreed to donate for this. number a new translation of this first chapter entitled “On the Origin and Variety of Legal Entities”.
 
19Finally, Sabine Collardey reports on Deborah Tollefsen’s work, Groups as Agents (Polity Press, 2015) which offers an introduction to the different approaches which, for the past twenty years, have granted the status of agent to certain groups.
 
authors: Magali Bessone , Philippe Urfalino
https://www.cairn.info/revue-raisons-politiques-2017-2-page-5.htm

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


one + = 5

Leave a Reply