Government As an Active Target: Multi-Agent Simulation of the Water War in Cochabamba, Bolivia

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Hiromi MAKITA, The University of Tokyo, Japan
How crucial were the Bolivian government’s strategic decisions for the success of the “Water War,” a movement against privatization of public water sector in Cochabamba? Given its historical significance as “the first successful movement in Bolivia,” scholars have tried to identify the reasons of the success.

                A weakness of the literature is that a disproportionate amount of attention has been paid to the movement organization’s strategies while the government’s strategies have not been analyzed systematically. This paper argues that the government should be treated as an “active target” and a central strategic player because the government’s strategies would affect the movement’s decisions and trajectories. It has been difficult to conduct such a relational analysis of movement-government interaction because, first, the information about the government’s decision making is often lacking, second and more importantly, it is problematic to demonstrate the probable effect of the strategic choices unused in reality.

            This paper attempts to overcome the difficulty by implementing a counterfactual analysis of strategic interaction between the movement and the government using the Multi-Agent Simulation (MAS), a computational technique to experiment social interaction.

                There are two players in my model, the Bolivian government and the movement organization. Depending on the agents’ strategic preferences and their decision sequences, the movement either increase or decrease in power. This study first reproduces virtually the actual interactive processes of the Water War based on the data from my fieldwork from 2009 from 2014 including interviews, newspapers, statements of movement organizations, and official governmental documents. Then, it runs counterfactual models by changing the government’s strategic preferences and choices to find out if the outcome of the movement changes.

                This paper contributes to the literature by giving the targets a more central place and treating the government as an active target in shaping the fate of social movements.