Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC San Diego

Organizational ecology and population dynamics in politics : an agent-based model


Markets, networks and hierarchies are the three core forms of social organization. They recur at all levels of social interaction as solutions to problems of cooperation. Disparate actors---from states, to "dark'' actors like rebel groups, to voters---use these organizations to solve their cooperative problems. This dissertation uses a general agent-based model (ABM) to examine how organizations affect cooperation and welfare across several issues. Humans form organizations to enhance cooperation and wellbeing. Markets, networks, and hierarchies are the recurrent forms of social organization, but are typically studied in isolation. I use an ABM to look at when different types of actors choose to join (and thereby create) different organizations. The conditions that drive these choices include individual, population, and organizational attributes. Organizations allow for social actors to guard against exploitation, increase the likelihood of cooperation, and by extension increase social welfare. I apply insights from the ABM to three topics: rebel organizations, alliance formation, and voter turnout in emerging democracies. I show rebel organizations form as networks when insurgents think the risks of defection are low, but shift into hierarchic organizations to protect themselves from defection as these risks increase. This finding has implications for counter insurgency policy. I also find that those most vulnerable to exploitation in rebel populations, such as child soldiers with no network to leverage, are more likely to join hierarchies at lower levels of risk than less vulnerable insurgents. Likewise, I apply the model to alliance formation, finding that "nice'' states will join constraining organizations in higher numbers than their "nasty'' counterparts. Finally, I study how voters in emerging democracies will use multiple organizations to promote high levels of turnout---bootstrapping the population into high levels of cooperation through social networks as well as institutional mechanisms. Embracing this multi-organizational approach in consolidating democracies can increase long-term political participation in many areas, both formal and informal

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View