Groups and Group Identity: A Deontic Account
We use the notion of groups to adjudicate moral and legal claims. It is normal for a collection of individuals with common grievances to be treated as a group within law. For instance, a class action lawsuit has people of a class acting in common legal interest. Courts can also take suo motu cognizance of cases wherein one of the parties to the case are people who have never met or coordinated with each other. The court may ‘group’ them together based on them being persecuted or wronged. I expand on this legal conception by arguing for a more permissive account of groups in general. I present a two-part account of groups: the application of an inclusion criteria in some possible world as a necessary condition to obtain collections of individuals; and a sufficiency criteria that determines that collections are groups if and only if their potential members bear at least one deontic enablement or curtailment by virtue of being members of that collection. A deontic enablement is the ability to do or be something more easily than it would be without such an enablement. A deontic curtailment is the ability to do or be something with more difficulty than it would be without such a curtailment. I present a way to frame group identity – individuals identifying with groups they may belong to – in terms of these deontic characteristics. I argue that thinking of groups and group identity in these terms presents at least two advantages: One, it allows for the categorisation of social kinds such as gender, race, class and caste as groups without essentialising their meaning while doing justice to people with intersectional identities wherein their membership of different groups can produce complex deontic profiles. Two, in an era of transnational corporations and international (in)voluntary migration (think climate refugees, asylum seekers), it allows for people to be the subjects of moral and legal claims without having to rely on state-judicial boundaries of recognition.
Only ISOS members (with valid fee) can access to the discussion section. Visit ISOS website to subscribe.