A Landscape Theory of Aggregation

Robert Axelrod, D. Scott Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Aggregation means the organization of elements of a system into patterns that tend to put highly compatible elements together and less compatible elements apart. Landscape theory predicts how aggregation will lead to alignments among actors (such as nations), whose leaders are myopic in their assessments and incremental in their actions. The predicted configurations are based upon the attempts of actors to minimize their frustration based upon their pairwise propensities to align with some actors and oppose others. These attempts lead to a local minimum in the energy landscape of the entire system. The theory is supported by the results of two cases: The alignment of seventeen European nations in the Second World War and membership in competing alliances of nine computer companies to set standards for Unix computer operating systems. The theory has potential for application to coalitions of political Parties in parliaments, social networks, social cleavages in democracies and organizational structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-233
Number of pages23
JournalBritish Journal of Political Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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