2013/01 LEM Working Paper Series

A Simple Model of Conflict

Sebastian Ille
Social Conflict, Social Change, Evolutionary Game, Stability of Equilibria

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This paper develops a simple dynamic, non-symmetric game between two player populations that can be generalised to a large variety of conflicts. One population attempts to re-write a current (social) contract in its favour, whereas the other prefers to maintain the status quo. In the model’s initial set up, the free-rider problem obstructs the occurrence of a conflict, leading to a low probability of a successful turn-over. The normative and conventional framework, in which players interact, plays however a vital role in the evolution of conflicts. By relating the individual pay-off perceptions for each strategy to the type and frequency of norm violations, the free-rider effect can be considerably weakened, thus enabling the model to predict the existence of two stable equilibria; one with a high rate of conflict, and another in which no conflict arises. This second equilibrium is caused by a triggering event. The model provides an explanation of how and why these events may occur and under which conditions they can be observed more frequently. In addition, it is also shown which factors influence the equilibria’s basin of attraction, i.e. the likelihood of a transition and hence the probability of a conflict.
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