Re-Thinking the Collective │ Addressing the Political


Mareike Kajewski (Goethe University Frankfurt)

Thomas Telios (University of St.Gallen/Goethe University Frankfurt)

Call for Abstracts

After decades in oblivion, collectivities have started becoming to such an extent the focal point of reflexion, so that it wouldn’t be farfetched to argue, that we are currently experiencing a collective turn in the field of social sciences. As constitutive factors of the everyday life, it is highly important to examine not only their theoretical status, but also their political (both emancipatory and authoritarian) dynamics and forms. Christian List’s and Philip Pettit’s book on Group Agency (2011) and the debate that followed, Judith Butler’s recent work on a Performative Theory of the Assembly (2015) as well as Axel Honneth’s last book on the Idea of Socialism (2015) are indicative of the diverse ways to approach – at least from a philosophical perspective – such notions as the collective, collective action or collective agency. Nevertheless all these various endeavors converge at one point: That of the essential necessity to rethink and readdress the questions of collectivity and detect not only their theoretical foundations, but analyze their political functionality.

In the workshop we aim to let those different conceptualizations of the foundation of collectivities encounter one another. Not only do we explicitly want to address the question what makes joint action thinkable, eligible and legitimate; moreover, we want to scrutinize the possibility for collective action and collective agency beyond normative criteria of identity politics and moral/ethical regulative categories. Our scope is thus to discuss the different political, social and socio-cultural preconditions that constitute and condition the creation of collectivities and how they determine not only the form, but also the content of these (collective) struggles.

The following guiding-lines are indicative of the conundrum that haunts every occupation with the collective. By highlighting the different vectors towards an analytics of the collective, we want to engage with the participants of the workshop in a discussion about their political impact.

  • What constitutes the materiality of collective action and agency? Who is/are its agent(s) and how do they emerge? Are collective actions the founding reason of institutions, or are institutions pre-shaping the collective and its action?
  • How does locality and space effect the formation and aim of collective action? Are the structure, the symbolic memory or the allocation of places and spaces capable of structuring the collective action and shape their mode of their appearance?
  • What designates the conditionality of a collective’s emergence? Are there extraneous reasons that trigger its formation and how can the emergence of collectivities be considered from an immanent perspective? Are there other than the prescribed normative goals that a collective has to achieve and how are they brought forth within the framework of democracy?
  • Are collectivities a modality of thought, or do they produce their own thinking as well? Is there a collective thinking and action in itself or only through the mediation of a willful subject?
  • How do different form of collectivities interact with one another? Is a collective’s transformation a result of interdependency between collectivities and on what grounds can one cooperate and build coalitions among different (collective) agents?

According to these questions Abstracts (300-500 words, deadline: 15th May) are accepted to the following Panels around which the workshop is centered:

  1. Collective Intentionality: Charged with notions such as perception, volition, cognition, imagination, intention etc. the notion of collective intentionality is considered to be incompatible with the socially constructed, decentered subject. Can these differences be overcome and what are the ways to bridge these discrepancies?
  2. Notions of Collectivities: From Assembly, Association and Corporation to Proletariat, Multitude, Assemblage, Swarm and beyond, the different denominations of the collective effect also its political impact. Which are the elective affinities between relevant concepts and where do they converge, diverge and enrich each other?
  3. Collective Forms of Political Action: Are there special modes which describe the political actions of collectivities? How are the different forms of political action intertwined with normative ideas or political principles e.g. cooperation, consent, dissent, civil disobedience?
  4. Collectivity and Democracy: Democracies have to assume a “demos”. Nevertheless, assuming that the power of the demos exists only as a heterogeneous assemblage, legitimacy must be construed through political means e.g. of election and law. How can one criticize the frames of liberal democracies through new concepts of collective modes of action?


15th May: Abstract Submission (300-500 words)

30th May: Notification of acceptance

5th June: Confirmation of acceptance

25th August: Submission of complete papers

Upon acceptance all speakers concede to their papers being circulated among the workshop’s participants. For every paper 30 minutes presentation and 30 minutes discussion are planned.


Mareike Kajewski (, Thomas Telios (