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Opportunity, Willingness and Political Uncertainty

Claudio Cioffi-Revilla and Harvey Starr

Journal of Theoretical Politics, 1995, vol. 7, issue 4, 447-476

Abstract: Political behavior - social events and processes concerning the governance and life of a collectivity, whether domestic or international - is caused by two fundamental, necessary conditions: the operational opportunity to act and the willingness to do so. We also assume that both conditions always occur with multiple, substitutable, and uncertain modes (probabilistically) not with certainty (deterministically). We develop foundations for a formal theory with unified principles for understanding political behavior. Given the authors' area of expertise, the theory is illustrated primarily with examples from deterrence, coalitions and war. Although strongly nonlinear, the probabilistic causality of political behavior is shown to be scientifically tractable and to contain greater theoretical interest and empirical complexity than previously understood. We also show how real-world political uncertainty differs from that of a counterfactual world with antithetical causal structure. Our theory offers, for example, an explanation for the observed `turbulence' in recent world politics.

Keywords: politics; formal theory; uncertainty; probability; opportunity-willingness axiom (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 1995
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