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  • Writer's pictureMaximilian Noichl

CFP: Collective Agency in Society and Politics. Emergence, Characteristics, and Effects.

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

Call for papers for a special issue in Historical Social Research,

edited by Thomas Gehring (Prof. Int. Politics; University of Bamberg) and Johannes Marx (Prof. Pol. Theory; University of Bamberg)

The presence of collective agency is a puzzling phenomenon. Groups of individuals or of corporate members are frequently treated as actors even in the absence of a formal hierarchy. ‘The jury finds man guilty of...’, ‘the Committee proposed to …’, or ‘Parliament adopted’. However, it is highly disputed in the social sciences whether these expressions should be understood literally or as mere metaphors (Beckenkamp 2006, 2). From a perspective of methodological individualism, it seems puzzling that interaction among group members might gradually produce collective agency.

The special issue will address these issues to explore sound and empirically applicable conceptions of collective actors, the mechanisms driving group agency, as well as empirical forms and effects of group agency. Empirically, it will focus on institutionalized groups, which are not primarily structured through formal hierarchy (henceforth non-hierarchical group actors), for example, court chambers, parliamentary committees, or member-driven bodies of international institutions. Non-hierarchical group actors are particularly well suited to explore fundamental issues of collective agency. They draw attention to self-organizing processes within groups and to the mechanisms through which collective agency emerges from interaction among formally equal group members because these groups must solve collective action problems from the bottom up. This contrasts with hierarchically structured organizations, for example, public administrations, which can solve such problems by assigning collective decisions to one or more individuals at the top of the hierarchy.

Invited are theoretical, conceptional, and empirical papers from a variety of disciplines, including analytical philosophy, political science, sociology, economy, and (international) law.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to

  • theoretical studies contributing to the concept of collective agency

  • theoretical or empirical contributions on the emergence of collective agency - empirical studies of the characteristics of collective agency, especially in the form of case studies or comparative research

  • normative research on the normative implications of non-hierarchical collective agents.

To submit, please send an extended abstract of 3 pages or less to no later than March 14, 2022.

The full paper has to be submitted to no later than June 30, 2022.

Please contact us in case of questions!

You can also download the call for your own notes below:

Download PDF • 107KB

Some information about the outlet:

Historical Social Research (HSR) is an international, peer-reviewed English-language journal for the application of formal methods in the social sciences. The scope of the journal includes quantitative research and computer-assisted qualitative research in the social sciences and historical sociology. The journal explicitly endorses interdisciplinary work, in particular involving fields such as philosophy, economics, and the information sciences. HRS also serves as the official journal of the QUANTUM association (Association for Quantification and Methods in Historical and Social Research).

Historical Social Research is published by GESIS – Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences, Germany. HSR offers full and open access to all articles through its website. The journal is abstracted and indexed in SocINDEX, Social Science Citation Index, Scopus, Sociological Abstracts, Historical Abstracts (ABC-CLIO), International Political Science Abstracts, Social Research Methodology Database, and the Social Science Literature Information System. All articles are also accessible through JSTOR.

(Cover image: Der Kupfferdrucker, Christoph Weigel, 1698 –


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