Complex Polities in the Age of Modern States




Cioffi-Revilla, Claudio

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


International Studies Association


Complex polities are political systems composed of both official "vertical" state institutions as well as one or more alternative set of "horizontal" institutions, such as religious, economic, paramilitary, or even criminal organizations. Both vertical and horizontal polities that compose complex polities have policy-making capacity engaged in the provision of public (and in some cases private) goods aimed at addressing various societal needs. While complex polities have existed since early antiquity, from a world historical perspective it is only since ca. 1500 CE and the formation of modern European states that contending vertical and horizontal polities have produced specialized institutions in competition and collaboration with the state. Moreover, complex polities for global governance also appear in the world system since ca. 1500 CE. This paper will present a theory of complex polities based on a computational perspective that is implemented in agent-based models of coupled socio-techno-natural systems - i.e., systems of governance that integrate societies and natural environments through artificial systems that mediate between the two at many scales, from local to global.


Paper prepared for presentation at the Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, March 16–19, 2011.


Complex polities, Political systems, Agent-based models


Cioffi-Revilla, C. 2011. "Complex Polities in the Age of Modern States." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association Annual Conference "Global Governance: Political Authority in Transition," Montreal, Canada.