Social facts explained and presupposed

In Nikos Psarros & Katinka Schulte-Ostermann (eds.), Facets of Sociality. Ontos Verlag (2006)
Abstract
Attempts are often made to explain collective action in terms of the interaction of individuals. A common objection to such attempts is that they are circular: Since every interaction presupposes the existence of common practices and common practices involve collective action, no analysis of collective agency in terms of interaction can reduce collectivity away. In this essay I will argue that this does not constitute a real circularity. It is true that common practices are presupposed in every attempt to explain collective action. However, this does not mean that every analysis of collective action presupposes an understanding of collective action. Common practices do not involve or presuppose particular collective actions. They are more fundamental than individual or collective agency. The subject of a common practice is not a ‘us’ or ‘them’, but the impersonal ‘one’: ‘One does this and that’. What ‘one does’ is not yet a joint activity. It is not a particular action at all.
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