The Party as Corporate Agent


List and Pettit, in their book Group Agency, defend a supervenience view of group agents. They reject both the Emergentist and Eliminativist views, arguing for a kind of middle position between the two. They hold that a supervenience view of the relationship between individual members of a group and the group as a whole. This view allows them to reject the eliminative view of groups, which would hold that groups are a metaphysical fiction, and all our talk of group phenomena is metaphorical. It also allows them to reject the emergence view of groups, which would hold that a group is a new metaphysical entity over and above its individual members. They also defend a position in which groups with joint intention and an organizational structure that facilitates collective decision making have group agency.

In addition to forming joint intentions, List and Pettit argue that the organizational structure of a group agent (at least in part) determines the kind of agency of the group. They distinguish between different organizational structures of group agents as functionally explicit or functionally inexplicit organizational structures. In this paper, I argue that the organizational structure of the party, as it is described in the Marxist tradition, is best described in this manner. While Marx and Engels describe the purpose of the Communist Party in the Communist Manifesto, it is not until an exchange between Lenin and Luxemburg that the organizational structure of the party becomes a central political question. Even though List and Pettit might initially reject the insights from the Marxist tradition as emergentist, I argue that their own account is much closer to it they might admit.


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