Contemporary social ontology is a rapidly growing but divided area of study. In Nonideal Social Ontology, Åsa Burman provides a systematic overview and synthesis of core ideas in the field by showing that its key questions and central dividing lines can be fruitfully reconstructed as a clash between ideal and nonideal social ontology. Burman argues for the use of nonideal theory in social ontology, claiming that a paradigm shift from ideal to nonideal social ontology is underway, and that this shift should be fully followed through. Burman offers a new theory, called “the power view,” of nonideal social ontology. It uses social power as the central building block, showing how this can partly bridge the divide between ideal and nonideal social ontology. The power view replaces the flat and narrow conception of social power in ideal social ontology with a richer and more extensive conception. In addition, it rectifies a shortcoming in other theories of nonideal social ontology by attending to class, which has been notably overlooked in that literature.
For institutional subscribers, the book is also available on Oxford Scholarship Online.
What is social power? How does it fit into the world of institutions, practices, rules, and norms in which we live our lives? Of what does the authority of a president or the informal power of a fashion guru exist? A peculiar fact of the field of social ontology – concerned as it is with concepts like institutions and collective action – is that social power has been almost completely missing from it. In this book, Åsa Andersson (now Burman) rectifies this deficiency. She provides a new approach to the conceptual analysis of social power and explains the forms it takes, using recent developments in social ontology. The various forms of social power share a common feature; they depend for their existence on collective intentionality.
The book provides you with academic productivity and stress management techniques to finish your dissertation on time and feel good along the way. You will learn about units, the weekly schedule and the 80/20 principle, and apply these concepts to your own work situation. These productivity techniques are closely connected to stress management techniques: the demand-control-support model both explains causes of stress in the academic environment and supports you in shifting from negative stress to positive stress.
Articles and Book Chapters
This is a book chapter in the anthology Amie Thomasson on Ontology (2023). I aim to show that there is a general and fruitful theory of social ontology implicit in Amie Thomasson’s prolific philosophical work. Despite its many advantages, there is a central difficulty: her new account of social groups is too narrow since it cannot accommodate opaque kinds of social groups. The second aim is to develop this objection and demonstrate that it must be resolved before we can take Thomasson’s theory of social ontology fully onboard. The chapter closes by suggesting that we can overcome this objection through even more pluralism—already a core feature in Thomasson’s social ontology.
Telic Power and Its Applications
I introduce a newly identified form of power: telic power. While deontic power is a key concept in social ontology, it is too narrow to capture a central dimension of the social world. I introduce and define the previously overlooked concept of telic power, offering two justifications for this new concept. First, it captures a distinct and central dimension of the social world that has previously been neglected due to the one-sided use of examples and a consequent emphasis on deontic power. Second, it is theoretically useful because telic power can both conflict with and reinforce our deontic powers.
I argue that a central claim of Ásta’s conferralist framework – that it can account for all social properties of individuals – is false, by drawing attention to (opaque) class. I then discuss an implication of this objection; conferralism does not meet its own conditions of adequacy, such as providing a theory that helps to understand oppression. My diagnosis is that this objection points to a methodological problem: Ásta and other social ontologists have been fed on a “one-sided diet” of types of examples, resulting in a limited view of the paradigmatic social phenomena, thus making conferralism too narrow to fulfill its intended role.
Recently, I was discussing Ásta's book with a fellow social ontologist who exclaimed, "I not only think her view is elegant but also believe it is correct!" I agree with the elegance of this work; the book is clearly and concisely written, and the new theory presented -- the conferralist framework -- promises to capture a large and crucial part of social reality with a few basic elements. It accounts for both communal properties (being cool, being a popular footballer) and institutional properties (being a professor, being a surgeon general). It is a key contender for being the correct view of the social world. However, I am not fully convinced that it is the correct account, for two reasons.
Social ontologists show an increasing interest in moral phenomena such as human rights, which raises the question, ”Can theories developed to explain the nature and structure of the social world explain moral phenomena?” One specific example of this general question is the contradiction: ”1. The universal right to free speech did not exist before the European Enlightenment, at which time it came into existence. 2. The universal right to free speech has always existed, but this right was recognized only at the time of the European Enlightenment.” I argue that the status function account of human rights fails to preserve both intuitions.