The Identification of Collective Efforts in a Force-Based Framework


I extend a force-based analysis of individual efforts to collective ones. According to this approach, effort predications precise the way in which an action is performed by informing the audience that the agent must resist to some force for her action to succeed. Collective efforts, I argue, can therefore be identified (i) with respect to the resistance encountered by the agents, or (ii) with respect to the goal they pursue even though they don’t face the same resistance, or (iii) with respect to both the goal they pursue and the resistance they face. I finish by mentionning a few advantages of a force-based conception of social entities.


4 thoughts on “The Identification of Collective Efforts in a Force-Based Framework

  1. Taillard, Antoine says:

    Hi Bastien,

    Sorry I couldn’t discuss with you during the live session today.

    I really liked your talk, especially the distinction you make between joint, group and collective effort. I do have a worry related to that point, however.

    According to you, an effort is collective if it is both a group and a joint effort, i.e. if the individuals making the effort have the same goal and are fighting against the same resistance. But isn’t this notion of collective a bit weak? (Or in other words: isn’t there a more interesting sense in which an effort can be collective?)

    Suppose that two individuals that never met and never interacted are both fighting air pollution with the goal of making the Earth more sustainable. If I understood you correctly, this would count as a collective effort. Alright. But isn’t there also a more robust sense in which an effort can be collective, e.g. a mob demonstrating, people pushing a car, etc.? Wouldn’t you be better distinguishing between these two meanings of collective?

    1. Gauchot, Bastien says:

      Hi Antoine,

      Thank you for your comment and fruitful remark, and sorry I wasn’t there in the live session to have a more lively discussion.

      Your worry is that the sense in which I used collective effort is too weak, and I think you are right. Through the distinction between group\joint\collective effort I tried to identify the strongest possible sense of ‘collective effort’ by distinguishing it from weaker comprehensions, i.e., the ones I called group and joint efforts. But as you rightly remarked I think, there is yet a stronger sense of collective efforts than the one I proposed.

      The criterion required for the more robust sense of collective effort may be the awareness of its members: two agents fighting the same resistance (say, air pollution) and for the same goal may or may not be aware that they fight the same resistance for the same goal. A collective effort in the most robust sense is an effort whose members are aware of what they fight and for which reason they fight it. It seems to be the case that demonstrators on a strike are aware that they fight the same resistance for the same reason and that it is “more” a collective effort than two people fighting air pollution who don’t know of their respective existences.

      If it is true that the criterion to distinguish those two senses of collective effort is relative to the awareness of its members, it then follows that the distinction obtains for the two other kind of collective efforts: two agents who follow the same goal by fighting different resistances may or may not be aware that they do so; and two agents fighting a similar resistance for different goals may as well be aware of it.

      To conclude, I think your remark shows that the proposed analysis needs to be developed through a tighter connection between the concepts of force and awareness, i.e. between the force(s) exerted by the agents and their awareness of it. What I have suggested seems weak probably because the identification of force may not be a sufficient condition to identify collective efforts: a sufficient condition might require the awareness of the force that is fought by the agents.

  2. Massin, Olivier says:

    Thanks for the nice talk Bastien !The distinction between group/joint/collective effort seems like a genuine advance I think.There is one criterion for distinguishing species of collective efforts which you do to rely on, which is neither the goal nor the resistance but the force(s) exerted by the individuals. Sometimes different individuals will exert one force together, sometimes they will exert different forces going in the same direction. In yet other time, they will exert difference force going in different directions, etc.

    Now one important case is the case where several people pursue a common goal but —*have to push in different —sometimes opposite— directions* to reach that goal. I mention that because one is sometimes tempted to say that when people pursue a same goal, they push in the same direction (you suggest sth like this in you slide 21).But that is not the case. Consider all the sailors on a sailboat : they push/pull in often completely different directions, but the forces they exert compose so as to yield an optimal resultant force —and therefore acceleration of the boat.

    One interesting issue is that people in such situations have to know a the forces they exert will combine with each other: such kinds of collective effort raises the question our cognition of the composition of forces in collective action. Failing to anticipate correctly such composition will yield to failure or suboptimal result.

    1. Gauchot, Bastien says:

      Thank you for your nice comment, Olivier.

      You are right: I too quickly identified the direction of an exerted force with the goal of the striver(s), since it is possible to exert forces in different directions for a single goal, such as in sailboat-like cases. There was a blind spot in this talk about the compositionality of forces, and as a result I didn’t think to such cases.

      Such cases seem to indicate, as it was also suggested by Antoine’s comment I think, that the job of identifying collective efforts cannot be done just with force, but that it requires to mention the awareness of some sort of the striving members. What makes the several efforts of the sailors a collective one is their ‘awareness’ that the composition of the forces they exert will result in the boat accelerating towards a direction. Despite their goal is identifiable to the direction of the boat, their forces are not directly exerted towards it, though their resultant force is. Thanks for letting me see that point.

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