We the People: Is the Polity the State?

Journal of the American Philosophical Association 7 (1):78-97 (2021)
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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: the amount of discretion held by the state's officeholders; the extent to which the democratic procedure is deliberative rather than aggregative.

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Author Profiles

Holly Lawford-Smith
University of Melbourne
Stephanie Collins
Monash University

Citations of this work

Husserl on the state: a critical reappraisal.Thomas Szanto - 2023 - Continental Philosophy Review 56 (3):419-442.
Solidarity and Public Health.Francisco Javier Lopez Frias & Donald B. Thompson - 2022 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 25 (3):371-382.

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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.
Political Liberalism.John Rawls - 1993 - Columbia University Press.
Leviathan.Thomas Hobbes - 1651 - Harmondsworth,: Penguin Books. Edited by C. B. Macpherson.
Group agency: the possibility, design, and status of corporate agents.Christian List & Philip Pettit - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Philip Pettit.

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