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Interpreting sociopolitical change by using Chaos Theory: A lesson from Sparta and Athens

Economou, Emmanouel/Marios/Lazaros and Kyriazis, Nicholas and Zachilas, Loukas (2016): Interpreting sociopolitical change by using Chaos Theory: A lesson from Sparta and Athens.

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Abstract

In the present paper we introduce the concept of optimal rate of political and social change as a benchmark to explain the successful or unsuccessful development of societies facing both internal change and external shocks. Societies face two extremes: volatility, e.g. rapid changes that lead to instability and possibly to collapse, or rigidity, which does not permit necessary adaptation and change and thus may again lead to collapse. Optimal is thus a rate of change between the two extremes. We develop a model to illustrate this and then analyse two cases from ancient Greece: Sparta, as a society and state with too many institutional and balances, that led to rigidity and collapse, and Athens that in the 5th century BCE had an institutional setting with almost no checks and balances (the citizens’ body, the Assembly, which was all powerful and dominant), which again led to near collapse, but then, during the 4th century BCE, introduced new institutions that enabled the state to survive in a world of changing circumstances and balances of power.

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