Ecology and Society Ecology and Society
E&S Home > Vol. 26, Iss. 4 > Art. 2 > Abstract Open Access Publishing 
Archetypal games generate diverse models of power, conflict, and cooperation

Bryan Bruns, Independent Researcher and Consultant
Christian Kimmich, Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS), Vienna, Austria; Masaryk University, Brno, Czechia


Full Text: HTML   
Download Citation


Interdependence takes many forms. We show how three patterns of power generate diverse models for understanding dynamics and transformations in social-ecological systems. Archetypal games trace pathways that go beyond a focus on a few social dilemmas to recognize and understand diversity and complexity in a landscape of social situations, including families of coordination and defection problems. We apply the extended topology of two-person two-choice (2 × 2) games to derive simple archetypes of interdependence that generate models with overlapping opportunities and challenges for collective action. Simplifying payoff matrices by equalizing outcome ranks (making ties to show indifference among outcomes) yields three archetypal games that are ordinally equivalent to payoff structures for independence, coordination, and exchange, as identified by interdependence theory in social psychology. These three symmetric patterns of power combine to make an asymmetric archetype for zero-sum conflict and further structures of power and dependence. Differentiating the ranking of outcomes (breaking ties) transforms these primal archetypes into more complex configurations, including intermediate archetypes for synergy, compromise, convention, rivalry, and advantage. Archetypal models of interdependence, and the pathways through which they generate diverse situations, could help to understand institutional diversity and potential transformations in social-ecological systems, to distinguish between convergent and divergent collective action problems for organizations, and to clarify elementary patterns of power in governance.

Key words

asymmetric social situations; coordination games; ecology of games; equilibrium selection; interdependence theory; social dilemmas; system dynamics archetypes

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087