An Ontological Analysis of States: Organizations vs. Legal Persons

Edward Heath Robinson
Applied Ontology 2010 5: pp. 109–125
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Legal_PersonsThe purpose of this paper is to argue states are not organizations, but rather the objective legal persons of international law. The ontological similarities and differences between states and organizations are examined, but, by drawing upon literature in political geography and international law, ultimately shows that states cannot be organizations based in large part on the fact that states can survive the destruction of their organizational structures. Bottazzi and Ferrario’s DOLCE-based ontology of organizations is of specific interest because it provides “TheState of Italy” as an example of an organization that fits their ontological structure. This claim is evaluated and challenged. It is argued that while a state’s government may be an organization, the state must be an entity independent from its government or broader socio-political and economic structure. It is argued that when a certain set of conditions is satisfied, a new non-physical legal person is brought into being that is independent of any existing entity. Finally, placement of the state as a legal person within the DOLCE ontology is considered, especially with the inclusion of Bottazzi and Ferrario’s ontology of organizations.