Sociologist Norbert Elias made it his lifework to describe and explain long-term processes. According to Elias, these processes cannot be studied voluntaristically by only focusing on human intentions or motivations. This is because they are the unplanned result of a whole spectrum of interactions of different people over time. According to Elias, these interactions between individuals interweave to produce a development that is relatively autonomous from the actions of individuals. To illustrate how the actions of individuals interweave and produce emergent dynamics, Elias constructed several theoretical models that are simplified versions of social processes. Importantly, the different models state precise propositions and consequences of specific types of interweaving that can be formally tested. This article simulates the Eliasian approach to social life. We reproduce the theoretical models of Elias with a method that is highly suited to investigate their emergent dynamics: agent-based modelling. Agent-based models are computer models that simulate agents (i.e. individuals or groups of individuals) and their interaction with other agents. More specifically, we test whether the theorized consequences of the Eliasian models exist when we implement their propositions in a computational framework.
- agent-based model
- Norbert Elias