Chemical analogy

chemical analogy
A 2013 chemical analogy type sketch by Ben Biddle in a blog entitled “Innovation is like a Chemical Reaction”, the coffee napkin sketch representative of what he calls a “powerful analogy for innovation”, which he describes as follows: “catalysts are problems in need of a solution. Adding heat means tapping into the passion of the individuals working on the problem. Increasing the surface area amounts to opening up your organization and exposing it to more ideas. Motion comes from changing the context – just mentally re-framing things in a new way or even physically moving your location, as you might do with an offsite. When they all come together, there’s a transformative reaction.”
In analogies, chemical analogy refers to a comparison, modeling, or liking of a human quality, nature, or behavior in chemical terms.

Chemical analogies are types of grey analogies that range from quaint comparisons, such as Richard Brown's 1989 “social protons” jab at social physicist's models, to intermediate models, such as American sociologist Mark Granovetter in 1969 “weak ties” model of job finding, based on hydrogen bonding models, to realism, e.g. Goethe’s 1809 Elective Affinities, and actual true statements, the latter of which are often a matter of heated debate, e.g. “human molecule”, “human molecular formula”, or “human chemical reaction”.

The work of Emile Durkheim is first Google Book search return for key term pair “chemical analogy + sociology”, who, as summarized well by Steven Lukes (1982), seems to employ not only chemical analogies, but thermodynamic analogies, electrical analogies, and physico-chemical analogies. [1]

Social bonds
See main: Social bond
American sociologist David Hachen comments on the 1859 work of Durkheim who distinguished between two types of “bonds” or “solidarity”, in his terminology: mechanical solidarity, or social bonds among persons based on shared moral sentiments, and organic solidarity, or social bonds based on a complex division of labor that connects members of industrialized societies. Hatchen, however, not being a chemist by training, makes the following dismissive blunder, in his claim that social bonds are chemical bonds: [2]

“The bonds that connect people together are not chemical bonds, although we sometimes use a chemical analogy, like when we say that there is real chemistry between two lovers. Rather, the bonds among people are social connections formed through social relationships, group affiliations, networks, and organizational memberships. Connections forge bonds, and it is these bonds that hold society together. Form his theoretical framework, much of what goes on in our social worlds concerns bonding, and sociologists who use this framework view the need to form bonds as the central driving force in society.”

There is so much wrong with this statement that it is not even funny; but without being too derisive, the issue here seems to be but the result of two cultures atrophy, namely that sociologists are largely ignorant of chemistry and the fact that society is made up of atoms and that in systems or societies of atoms the central driving force is free energy, as clarified by Gilbert Lewis in 1923.

See also
Chemical aphorism

1. (a) Durkeheim, Emile. (1895). Rules of Sociological Method (introduction by Steven Lukes, pgs. 1-30; translator: W.D. Halls). Simon & Schuster.
(b) The Rules of Sociological Method – Wikipedia.
2. Hachen, David S. (2001). Sociology in Action: Cases for Critical and Sociological Thinking (“chemical analogy” + sociology, pgs. 67-68). Pine Forge Press.
3. (a) Biddle, Ben. (2013). “Innovation is Like a Chemical Reaction” (Ѻ), May 15.
(b) Thims, Libb. (2014-15/16). Chemical Thermodynamics: with Applications in the Humanities (97-page version: pdf of 800-pages estimated total) (Biddle “Heat = Passion” diagram, pg. ix). Publisher.

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