Power and Social Ontology

This work presents an account of social power based on recent advances in social ontology. It is argued that a conceptual analysis of social power can be informed by developments in social ontology, but also that this field can be enriched, and in fact requires, an analysis of this central social concept. Social power is dependent on the existence of various kinds of social phenomena, such as institutions and social structures, in order to exist. Consequently, a precise analysis of these social phenomena improves our understanding of social power, and the different forms it takes. The proposed taxonomy of social power is based on this insight since the various types of social power is explained in terms of the different social phenomena on which it depends. These forms of social power share a common feature; they are dependent on collective intentionality to exist, which makes the analysis of this notion an important part of the book. The following definition of social power is proposed: An agent A has social power if and only if A has an ability, which is existentially dependent on collective intentionality, to effect a specific outcome. Due to presupposing a cooperative and consensus-oriented view of social phenomena, other works in this field offer too narrow analyses, if any, of social power. For instance, the type of power - deontic power - previously discussed is necessarily visible or transparent. But there are other forms of power in social reality, such as opaque kinds of social power, telic power, and power as the imposition of internal constraints. In order to account for these forms of social power the investigation is extended to areas which have been neglected so far: second-order social phenomena such as social structures, opaque kinds of social facts, and different types of normativity. A definition of "social structure" is offered, and the tools of social ontology are applied to a new area, meta-ethics, in arguing for the thesis that moral facts are social facts. The book also offers a critical discussion of central theories in this field, such as John Searle's construction of social reality, Raimo Tuomela's collective acceptance account of sociality and Margaret Gilbert's plural subject theory. This critical discussion aims at improving our understanding of the nature of social phenomena
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Corrado Roversi (2014). Conceptualizing Institutions. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 13 (1):201-215.

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