Game theory, Industrial relations and Politics.

In game theory there is interesting game called as Chicken. Game is as follows…

There are 2 drivers, both headed for a single lane bridge from opposite directions. The first to swerve away yields the bridge to the other, but one who swerves is called “chicken”, he becomes object of contempt. If neither player swerves, the result is a costly deadlock in the middle of the bridge, or a potentially fatal head-on collision. Each driver wants to stay straight expecting other to swerve (other becomes “chicken”, but crash is avoided). If both swerve, then there is a tie. But each player prefers win over tie.


This game has many interesting applications in politics and industrial relations.

chicken 3

Union loves to make demands, while management is not ready to accept them. If one of them compromises, he becomes chicken. Uncompromising stand by both results in strike/lockout.

chicken 1

Classical example was textile strike of Mumbai in 1982. Both players- Textile mill owners and Union under Datta Samant, refused to swerve, due to fear of being called “chicken”. Each expected other player to swerve.

Result- The majority of the over 80 mills in Central Mumbai closed during and after the strike, leaving more than 150,000 workers unemployed. Since neither swerved there was head on collision. This game is well captured in movie “City of gold”.

city of gold

Good example of this game in politics is recent dharna by Arvind Kejriwal. Game was played by two players Kejriwal and Shinde. Initially, both refused to serve,as a result citizens of Delhi suffered. Later, good sense prevailed and both players went for tie- Kejriwal called off strike and Shinde sent policemen on leave.

chicken 2


2 thoughts on “Game theory, Industrial relations and Politics.

  1. I’d like to use the “you go first” cartoon to illustrate the Nash equilibrium on my website Have done provisionally, but not sure what attribution to give, and if you are unhappy of course I will withdraw it immediately.

    With thanks

    Len Fisher

    Dr Len Fisher, FRSN, FRSC, FRACI, C.Chem., FInstP, FLS
    Visiting Research Fellow
    School of Physics
    University of Bristol

    Liked by 1 person

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