Collective intentionality, complex pluralism and the problem of anarchy
Journal of International Political Theory
© The Author(s) 2017
In this article, I argue that contemporary theories of collective intentionality force us to think about anarchy in new and challenging ways. In the years since Wendt declared the state a person, the collective intentionality of groups has become the focus of important scholarship across the humanities and social sciences. But this literature will not sit easily with mainstream international relations for two reasons. First, contemporary theories of collective intentionality are difficult to square with the idea that the personified state is an intentional agent, with first-person plural self-awareness and moral obligations. However, by contrast, the same theories make it eminently plausible for all sorts of other groups to be intentional, agential, moral persons and can tell us how states are constructed. In short, this set of theories radically pluralises and transforms standard political ontology while also accounting for common misperceptions. I push these insights further to argue that radical pluralisation suggests that anarchy may be the structural context for politics as such. What we know from mainstream international relations theory is that politics without an orderer is well-ordered regardless. It may be time to recast these insights in order to demonstrate how complex pluralism is not chaos but anarchy.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from SAGE Publications via the DOI in this record.
Published online 6 July 2017