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Proxy Agency in Collective Action*


  • *

    I would like to thank John Biro, Michael Bratman, Sara Chant, David Copp, Marija Jankovic, Seamus Miller, Abe Roth, and two anonymous referees for this journal, as well as audiences at the Collective Intentionality VI conference at UC Berkeley in August 2008, the Kline Conference at the University of Missouri, Columbia, in October 2008, the Workshop on Collective Intentionality and the Ontology of Law and the State at Macquarie University and a colloquium at the Australian National University, in May 2012, and the Colombian Philosophy Congress and a colloquium at York University, in September 2012, for valuable comments at various stages in the development of the ideas presented in this paper.


This paper gives an account of proxy agency in the context of collective action. It takes the case of a group announcing something by way of a spokesperson as an illustration. In proxy agency, it seems that one person or subgroup's doing something counts as orconstitutes or is recognized as (tantamount to) another person or group's doing something. Proxy agency is pervasive in institutional action. It has been taken to be a straightforward counterexample to an appealing deflationary view of collective action as a matter of all members of a group making a contribution to bringing about some event. I show that this is a mistake. I give a deflationary account of constitutive rules in terms of essentially collective action types. I then give an account of one form of constitutive agency in terms of constitutive rules. I next give an account of status functions—of which being a spokesperson is one—that also draws on the concept of a constitutive rule. I then show how these materials help us to see how proxy agency is an expression of the agency of all members of the group credited with doing something when the proxy acts.