Understanding public organisations: collective intentionality as cooperation

In Proceedings of the 2011 Conference of the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia. Auckland, New Zealand. Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia (2011)
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This paper introduces the concept of collective intentionality and shows its relevance when we seek to understand public management. Social ontology – particularly its leading concept, collective intentionality – provides critical insights into public organisations. The paper sets out the some of the epistemological limitations of cultural theories and takes as its example of these the group-grid theory of Douglas and Hood. It then draws upon Brentano, Husserl and Searle to show the ontological character of public management. Modern public institutions – such as advisory organisations and service delivery agencies, including schools and universities – are expressions of human collective intentionality. The central concept within these institutions, as a phenomenology reveals, is cooperation. Public institutions are natural structures that emerge from our evolutionary ancestry as cooperative animals and enduringly display all the features of that ancestry.

Author's Profile

Robert Keith Shaw
University of Auckland (PhD)


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