Seminar: The evolutionary iron law of oligarchy

Start date and time

Wednesday 11 December 2019


Wednesday 11th December, 4-5pm C44

You are all invited to the seminar below at which Cedric Perret will present a complete overview of his PhD ; Cedric will be defending his thesis the following week so you are also welcome to ask him challenging questions at the end of the seminar!

The evolutionary iron law of oligarchy

Do we start a war or negotiate peace? Do we invest in more capital stocks or sell our shares? The fate of states, companies and organisations are shaped by their decisions. It is then surprising that only a minority of individuals are usually involved into the decision-making process. The ``iron law of oligarchy'' is a theory from political sciences which proposes that (i) leaders emerge in large groups to facilitate coordination but then (ii) leaders would use their newly acquired influence to impose inequality that benefits themselves. Yet, this theory lacks of a formal description and it is not clear under which conditions this law would apply. During my PhD, we developed an evolutionary iron law of oligarchy, which reinterprets the iron law in formal terms using evolution theory. We build agent-based models simulating consensus formation -- how individuals take collective decisions -- and evolutionary dynamics -- how individuals change with time. On one hand, our results show that the evolutionary iron law of oligarchy is a viable scenario, which can unify previous theories explaining either the beneficial or despotic side of leaders. On the other hand, we developed a mechanistic model of the iron law of oligarchy, which shows under which conditions the iron law of oligarchy would apply. Finally, our results demonstrate that the iron law of oligarchy goes beyond political sciences and is underwritten by the laws of Darwinian evolution. Understanding the factors driving the emergence of hierarchy and despotism will open new perspectives to design better forms of governance for natural and artificial systems.