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Social polarization and conflict: A network approach


  • Ernesto Cárdenas



Theoretically, polarization is associated with a higher probability of social conflict. This paper, in a microeconomic model based on the theory of social networks, analyses how changes in the network’s structure affect the level of some basic parameters associated with the concept of polarization. This study shows that under upward monotonic preferences, longer sets of affiliations for each individual reduce polarization, whereas under downward monotonic preferences, longer sets of the so-called bad affiliations increase polarization. Finally, in the case of a non-monotonic system of preferences, an expansion of the affiliations set will alter the resulting polarization order in different ways depending on the preferences themselves. ***** En la teoría, la polarización se asocia con una mayor probabilidad de conflicto social. Este artículo analiza, dentro de un modelo microeconómico basado en la teoría de redes sociales, cómo los cambios en la estructura de la red afectan el nivel de algunos parámetros básicos asociados con el concepto de polarización. También muestra que bajo preferencias monótonas crecientes, la existencia de conjuntos más largos de afiliaciones para cada individuo reduce la polarización, mientras que, bajo preferencias monótonas decrecientes, los conjuntos más largos de las llamadas malas afiliaciones aumentan la polarización. Por último, en el caso de un sistema no monótono de preferencias, una expansión del conjunto de afiliaciones alterará el orden resultante de polarización de diferentes maneras, dependiendo de las preferencias mismas. ***** En théorie, la polarisation est associée à une plus grande probabilité de conflit social. Cet article analyse, dans un modèle microéconomique basé sur la théorie des réseaux sociaux, la manière dont les changements dans la structure du réseau affectent le niveau de certains paramètres de base associés au concept de polarisation. Cette étude montre que, avec des préférences monotones croissantes, l’existence d’ensembles plus longs d’affiliations pour chaque individu réduit la polarisation tandis que, avec des préférences monotones décroissantes, les ensembles plus longs de ce qu’on appelle des mauvaises affiliations augmentent la polarisation. Enfin, dans le cas d’un système non monotone de préférences, une expansion de l’ensemble d’affiliations altèrera l’ordre résultant de polarisation de différentes manières, selon les préférences elles-mêmes.

Suggested Citation

  • Ernesto Cárdenas, 2013. "Social polarization and conflict: A network approach," REVISTA CUADERNOS DE ECONOMÍA, UN - RCE - CID, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:col:000093:011075

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Esteban, Joan & Ray, Debraj, 1999. "Conflict and Distribution," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 87(2), pages 379-415, August.
    2. Esteban, Joan & Ray, Debraj, 1994. "On the Measurement of Polarization," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(4), pages 819-851, July.
    3. Leonardo Gasparini & Matias Horenstein & Ezequiel Molina & Sergio Olivieri, 2008. "Income Polarization in Latin America: Patterns and Links with Institutions and Conflict," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(4), pages 461-484.
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    More about this item


    Polarization; conflict; preferences; theory of networks;

    JEL classification:

    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions


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