Cindynics have occasionally1 been erroneously presented as relying on the use of probability theory. Not only is this not the case, but this is the worst possible misunderstanding since going beyond probabilistic approaches is precisely what allowed the mastery of propensities to emerge as the core concept of Cindynics .

To better understand this, we can consider an opposite epistemic move: the one through which Claude Lévi-Strauss gave birth to structuralism starting from diametrically opposed initial considerations.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, mathematics enjoyed a very positive image, in particular thanks to the development of cybernetics or quantum mechanics, and Lévi-Strauss wanted to be able to use probabilities in anthropology as well.

But the legitimate use of probabilities imposed constraints2 which pushed him to import the notion of structure from the field of linguistics: the main characteristic of a structure, stability, was what made it possible to guarantee a stability of results compatible with a rigorous use of probabilities. Structuralism had just been born and with it a particularly static conception of situations, resulting directly from this initial methodological choice, and leaving little or no room for the consideration of agency, or - in cindynical terms - of the power of actors over situations.

Conversely, Georges-Yves Kervern, the founder of Cindynics, who was also Deputy Director of the UAP insurance group, considered that in practice probabilities are a "still poorly decanted conceptual zone"3 . For example, you can flip a coin a thousand times inside a lab to see if it lands on the tail or head side. But can you toss Egypt a thousand times in a row to see if it lands on the revolution side or not?

An example: in 2001, based on a dataset covering two hundred years of history, Hegre et al. proposed a representation of the risk of civil war in a country 4 as a function of two factors: its level of democracy and the number of years since the most recent regime change. This three-dimensional representation of the risk of civil war determined a surface where this risk is minimum in particular when democracy is minimum and the time elapsed since the most recent regime change is maximum. According to this model, Moammar Gadhafi's Libya would therefore have been one of the countries where the risk of civil war was the lowest ...

In the mid-90s, Georges-Yves Kervern therefore proposed an alternative approach, based on the propensity of situations. The notion of situation had in particular been described by Karl Popper who considered that a real situation is unique and never occurs twice identically. This is a fundamental initial observation when we want to study human or complex organizations.

Thus, Cindynics went beyond classical two-dimensional representations of risk (probability x severity) and attempted to describe the vulnerability of situations, defined as the propensity of situations to generate damage. This notion of propensity appears to have been inspired by Popper, who saw propensities as forces or force fields, but more deeply it was indeed inspired by Sun Tzu's strategic thinking: the mastery of propensities is the core concept5 of his Art of War. And you cannot truly understand the Art of War or Cindynics without understanding the concept of mastery of propensities.


1 SOULIÉ, Julie. La cindynique : La science du danger au service de la gestion des risques. Dans : Portail de l’IE. 26 octobre 2017.
2 « En second lieu, Wiener note que les phénomènes qui relèvent en propre des recherches sociologiques et anthropologiques se définissent en fonction de nos propres intérêts : ils se rapportent à la vie, à l'éducation, à la carrière et à la mort d'individus semblables à nous. Par conséquent, les séries statistiques dont on dispose pour étudier un phénomène quelconque, restent toujours trop courtes pour servir de base à une induction légitime. Wiener conclut que l'analyse mathématique, appliquée aux sciences sociales, ne peut fournir que des résultats peu intéressants pour le spécialiste ... Pourtant, dans un domaine au moins des sciences sociales, les objections de Wiener perdent beaucoup de leur poids. En linguistique, et plus particulièrement en linguistique structurale - surtout envisagée du point de vue de la phonologie - il semble que les conditions qu'il pose pour une étude mathématique se trouvent réunies. »
LÉVI-STRAUSS, Claude. Anthropologie structurale. Paris : Librairie Plon, 1958.
3 « Les différences entre la définition de la probabilité en calcul des probabilités et son usage par les actuaires ou les spécialistes de l'assurance pour mesurer le caractère vraisemblable ou imminent de l'occurrence d'un événement constituent une zone conceptuelle encore mal décantée. C'est l'analyse en termes de propension qui permet de mieux caractériser la tendance d'une situation à engendrer un événement. »
KERVERN, Georges-Yves. La théorie de la description appliquée à l’essentiel des cindyniques. avril 2005.
4 HEGRE, Håvard, ELLINGSEN, Tanja, GATES, Scott et GLEDITSCH, Nils Petter. Toward a Democratic Civil Peace? Democracy, Political Change, and Civil War, 1816-1992. The American Political Science Review. 2001, Vol. 95, no 1, p. 33‑48