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Report

Modeling Civil Violence: An Agent-Based Computational Approach

Joshua M. Epstein, John D. Steinbruner, and Miles T. Parker

Abstract

This working paper presents an agent-based computation model of civil violence. We present two variants of the Civil Violence Model. In the first, a central authority seeks to suppress decentralized rebellion. In the second, a central authority seeks to suppress communal violence between two warring ethnic groups.

Overview

This Working Paper presents an agent-based computational model of civil violence. The model is very much a work in progress, and this preliminary report is intended to stimulate discussion, garner feedback, and foster refinement. For an introduction to the agent-based modeling technique, see Epstein and Axtell (1996). We present two variants of the Civil Violence Model. In the first, a central authority seeks to suppress decentralized rebellion. Where we use the term “revolution,” we do so advisedly, recognizing that no political or social order is represented in the model. Perforce, neither is the overthrow of an existing order, the latter being widely seen as definitive of revolutions properly speaking. The dynamics of decentralized upheaval, rather than it’s political substance, is the focus here. In the second model, a central authority seeks to suppress communal violence between two warring ethnic groups. And, as in Model I, we are interested in generating certain characteristic phenomena and core dynamics; we do not purport to reconstruct any particular case in detail, though-as discussed in Appendix B-that is an obvious long-term objective.

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