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Turchin's Metaethnic Frontier & Asabiya Model of Imperial Expansion

A country, for whatever reason, wants to have an empire. It builds its empire by attacking its neighbours and taking over both their land and their people.

The larger the empire becomes the more resources they have available to take further territory by force. However the further the empire extends from the centre, the harder they find it to resource the frontier region for war. Thus the larger the empire becomes the less likely they are to gain further territory beyond their borders. This is a limits to growth scenario.

Imperial expansion is further enabled by the empire's ability to generate social cooperation among its people - its asabiya. Asabiya is generated at the empire's metaethnic frontier with its adversaries. However it is depleted by regions within the imperial core that are far from the threat of its neighbours. Thus as the empire expands, asabiya starts to decline, causing the empire to contract. If asabiya does not recover fast enough, the empire collapses.

This model investigates the feasibility of starting such an empire, given its neighbouring territories all have the same ability in warfare.

The model was developed with system dynamics and implemented in "Stella Architect" produced by ISEE Systems. The online simulation is hosted by ISEE systems.

The simulation is embedded below and requires a minimum width of screen. Alternatively it can be open in a separate window:
https://exchange.iseesystems.com/public/john-hayward/turchin%E2%80%99s-metaethnic-frontier-theory-of-imperial-growth/

  • Collins, R. (1995). Prediction in macrosociology: The case of the Soviet collapse. American Journal of Sociology, 1552-1593. The theory behind Collins' model, on which the Turchin model is based.
  • Turchin, P. (2003). Historical dynamics: why states rise and fall (Vol. 41). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. The differential equation version of Turchin's model on which the system dynamics model presented is based.

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