Modeling Power and Authority: An Emergentist View from Afghanistan

  • Armando GellerEmail author
  • Scott Moss
Part of the Understanding Complex Systems book series (UCS)

Why Read This Chapter?

To understand how an evidence-driven approach using agent-based social simulation can incorporate qualitative data, and the effects of social complexity, to capture some of the workings of power and authority, even in the absence of sufficient statistical data. This is illustrated with a model of Afghan power structures, which shows how a data collection process, intuitive behavioral models and epistemological considerations can be usefully combined. It shows how, even with a situation as complex as that of Afghanistan, the object under investigation can shape the theoretical and methodological approach rather that the other way around.


The aim of this chapter is to provide a critical overview of state of the art models that deal with power and authority and to present an alternative research design. The chapter is motivated by the fact that research on power and authority is confined by a general lack of statistical data. However, the literal complexity of structures and mechanisms of power and authority requires a formalized and dynamic approach of analysis if more than a narrative understanding of the object of investigation is sought. It is demonstrated that evidence-driven and agent-based social simulation (EDABSS) can contend with the inclusion of qualitative data and the effects of social complexity at the same time. A model on Afghan power structures exemplifying this approach is introduced and discussed in detail from the data collection process and the creation of a higher order intuitive model to the derivation of the agent rules and the model’s computational implementation. EDABSS not only deals in a very direct way with social reality but also produces complex artificial representations of this reality. Explicit socio-cultural and epistemological couching of an EDABSS model is therefore essential and treated as well.


Organize Crime Powerful Actor Target System Religious Leader Powerful Agent 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Bruce Edmonds, Seyed M. Mussavi Rizi, Martin Neumann, and Flaminio Squazzoni for thoughtful and helpful comments. We also thank Zemaray Hakimi for translation and facilitator skills, Sayyed Askar Mousavi for advice in the data collection process, Shah Jamal Alam, Ruth Meyer and Bogdan Werth for modeling support, and the Bibliotheca Afghanica for access to its library.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Scensei, LLCAlexandriaUSA
  2. 2.The School for Conflict Analysis and ResolutionGeorge Mason UniversityArlingtonUSA
  3. 3.Scott Moss AssociatesBrookfoldChapel-en-le-FrithUK

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