Power, Resources, and Violence in Contemporary Conflict: Artificial Evidence

CPM Report No.: 07-181
By: Armando Geller
Date: July 2007


Traditionally, approaches to conflict analysis have underlined the importance of a systems theoretic perspective. However, recent studies of contemporary conflicts have been often dominated by mono-causal thinking. This paper emphasizes the importance of a complex systems approach to conflict analysis by presenting an agent-based social simulation implementation of a simple although not trivial and generic conflict ontology. Four different types of agents politicians, businessmen, warriors, and civilians constitute an artificial conflict society by virtue of which a variety of phenomena can be studied and validated against reality. Preliminary results suggest that an increasing number of political stakeholders paradoxically leads to intensified interfactional fighting while at the same time lowering the number of civilian casualties; that although violence in contemporary conflicts measured as number of dead civilians takes the form of a lognormal distribution, its magnitude and timing for any particular moment cannot be predicted; that economic factors do not have the unequivocal and linear impact on violence in contemporary conflict as claimed by a number of recent publications.

Keywords: Agent-based modeling, conflict analysis, critical realism, social simulation.

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