The persistence of social groups through change is a matter of debate in social ontology. While mereological approaches contend that social groups persist if formed by the same members, other accounts leaning towards structuralism find that what ensures the persistence of social groups is instead continuity of structure. The aim of this paper is to challenge the idea that a structuralist account is bound to hold that continuity of structure is necessary and sufficient condition for persistence.
First, I consider membership changes. I argue that for structure-based metaphysics, not all changes in membership are irrelevant to persistence because, for some groups, members’ continuity is made necessary by structural constraints on the node-occupiers. Then, I discuss structural changes. The main idea is that social groups can persist through structural changes that fall within the group’s flexibility margins. I suggest that one way to determine the flexibility margins is to pinpoint the social factors that ground the group’s structure. Finally, I raise two open questions concerning how to identify grounds and how to consider their eventual transformation.
The persistence of social groups through changes in membership and structure is a controversial issue. While mereological approaches contend that social groups persist if formed by the same members (Hawley 2017), other accounts leaning towards structuralism find that what ensures the persistence of social groups is instead continuity of structure (Ritchie 2018, Sheehy 2016). Greenwood (2019) has recently remarked that both views are of limited scope, focused exclusively and respectively on the continuity of membership and the continuity of structure as if membership/structure were necessary and sufficient condition for the persistence of every social group. The issue raises complex metaphysical questions. My aim here is to challenge the idea that…
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