The Dimensions of Power as Illustrated in a Steady-State Model of Conflict

by Jack Hirshleifer


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This Note presents a theoretical analysis of the determinants of power, defined as the ability to achieve one's ends in the presence of rivals. The author analyzes two-sided interactions between contenders assumed to be rational and interested solely in maximizing income. Each contender strikes an optimal balance between productive activity (aimed at generating income through cooperation with the other side) and conflictual activity (aimed at appropriating the income produced by others or defending against others' efforts to do the same). The author discusses the factors determining power under three broad headings: (1) capabilities, including the resources on each side and the efficiency with which they can be used for productive or conflictual ends; (2) payoff functions — the equations that translate productive efforts into income and conflictual efforts into distributive shares; and (3) protocol, or the rules of the game, which determine what solution is applicable.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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