European Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 204-213, 2011
GROUP AGENCY: THE POSSIBILITY, DESIGN, AND STATUS OF GROUP AGENTS, Christian List, Philip Pettit, eds., Oxford University Press, 2011
10 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2012
Date Written: July 3, 2011
The book under review offers a brave new theory of group agents: it maintains that some groups of individuals have one capacity which is usually attributed only to individual human beings, namely being an agent. This is a bold claim with potential repercussions in all social sciences (and which may be particularly disturbing for lawyers). To be adequate to that, the authors have developed a fully fledged account of group agents, and discuss what an agent is, why we need the concept of group agent, how to recognise one when we see it and how the group agent is different from participating members. The book builds upon the earlier work of both authors who have been exploring different aspects of collective decision-making separately or in collaboration for more than decade. On the background of these bits now they have developed a whole new theory which is fascinating. Unlike most of the earlier work of List, where his use of formal methods in philosophy makes them fascinating yet extremely difficult to grasp by the uninitiated, in this book the authors have gone a long way to make it sweat and readable: they even say “not-p” instead of “p” for instance and in many cases go straight to the bottom line told in plain words while referring to standalone articles for elaborate formalisations and proofs.
Keywords: group agency, discursive dilemma, collective responsibility
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