Law, agency and collective lives


Social interaction gives rise to entities such as groups, societies, institutions, politics, law.

Collective agents are simultaneously socially and legally constituted. They are socially constituted in that they consist of people acting together toward a common goal, often with a set of rules and division of roles. At the same time, many collective agents are also legally constituted in that they can only exist within the context of a legal system. To give an example, people act together all the time without founding a corporation, but it is only after they decide to follow a specific legal procedure that their common project can receive the status of a corporation. In turn, the legal status and standing of collective agents shapes the way people act within their roles. Legal frameworks both constrain and enable agency.

This workshop brings social ontology together with legal theory and philosophy, with political theory and philosophy thrown in for a good measure. The aim is to inspire fresh thinking and new viewpoints to research on to collective entities such as institutions and corporations, including questions about agency, responsibility, policy and legislation. Themes covered in the workshop include, but are not limited to, questions such as:

  • What can the legal arrangements underpinning collectives reveal to us about their nature as agents?
  • What is the role of legal institutions in upholding and dismantling structural injustices?
  • What is the role of non-state collective actors, such as civil society organisations, in shaping legal discourses?
  • Should political philosophy and/or social ontology engage with legal philosophy more, and vice versa?

Please send a 500-word abstract to and by 15 May 2020. We will notify applicants by the beginning of June.