Measuring Polity Induction and Disintegration

Sociodynamics is a discipline that frustrates our desire to apply empirical systems of measurement to it. Despite science’s sometimes embarrassing love affair with quantitative data to the exclusion of all other descriptive modes, empirical measurement is in fact incredibly useful at explicitly measuring the change and rate of change (delta) of phenomenon.

One of the great questions sociodynamics has always sought to answer is how political entities (polities) accrue and lose power; that is, what are the factors determining how and when a civilization or empire rises to power or disintegrates into pieces?

The why and how parts of this equation are larger questions, but here let’s examine how we might measure this. If we can empirically measure the breadth of a polity against time and its neighbors, we have an interesting tool towards understanding the larger patterns of civilization and empire induction and disintegration.

There are a number of ways one might choose to measure the expanse and potency of a polity:

  • Population
  • Q Score
  • Geographic area
  • GNP or GDP
  • Per capita GNP or GDP
  • Capacity to project military force
  • …others

For the view of the particular analysis (view in this sense means the context; for example, “polity induction and disintegration in Sub-Saharan Africa from 1950 to 2010”) different of these (or other) aspects may be more or less relevant. Similarly, scaling values should be normalized based on the view; if there is excessive static, measurements based on standard deviations may prove useful at filtering out noise born out of background variation.

Finally, while there is value in absolute estimations for all of these values, ultimately geopolitics is a subjective game, so additional normalization to the various means for each of these values for each time increment will give values that describe a polity’s relative strength in addition to a polity’s absolute strength.

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