Political entropy

In political thermodynamics, political entropy is the general use of the disorder-decay-uncertainty view of entropy applied to a time-frame of a political system.

In 1969, Dutch economist Henri Theil was using the term political entropy. [4]

In 1975, American political scientist Stephen Coleman did his PhD dissertation on political thermodynamics, political entropy, and voting as a measure or gauge of political entropy, albeit using purely, it seems, information theory, mixed with thermodynamic models and metaphors. [1] Coleman argues that "political entropy" and "social entropy" are equivalent, and defines entropy, via a mixture Shannon’s original definition (as “a measure of information, choice and uncertainty”) used in the metaphor context of a thermodynamic system, as: [2]

“The entropy measurement gives the average social uncertainty about what will happen for event sets in the social system. An entropy value for a unitary social system is analogous to a temperature reading for a thermodynamic system, such as a volume of gas. In a state of temperature equilibrium one temperature measurement describes the whole volume of any part of it. If a social system is in an entropy equilibrium, a single entropy measurement describes the state of the system or any subsystem. For a system in partial equilibrium, the entropy values of its subsystems must be known.”

In 1981, author Jeffrey Pfeffer was speaking about the “law of political entropy.” [5]

In 1992, author Benjamin Franks wrote a short booklet entitled Political Entropy in the Jewish Diaspora. [6]

In the 1990s, French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard was using a type of thermodynamic entropy logic in his political writings. [7]

In 2001, American social scientist Carl Boggs used the term political entropy as a metaphor for, what he describes as, “the deep sense of political malaise that gripped American society in the 1990s—a malaise deeply rooted in historical processes that have given rise to unprecedented levels of popular distrust, hostility, and alienation toward the political system, politicians, and indeed ‘politics’ in general”, signified by a less than 25 percent public confidence in the federal government during this period. He goes on to state: “measured by virtually any set of criteria, the political system is in a (potentially terminal) state of entropy, out of touch with the needs and aspirations of the vast majority of people; citizenship—its rights and obligations—has decayed beyond recognition.” [3]

1. Coleman, Stephen. (1975). Measurement and Analysis of Political Systems: a Science of Social Behavior (Omarb. utg. av diss. Minneapolis, 1972). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
2. (a) ibid (Section: 2-4: Social entropy, pgs 30-35, Entropy (definition): pg. 37, etc.).
(b) ibid (4-1: Equivalence of social and political entropy, pgs. 82-90).
(c) ibid (ch. 7: Entropy Reduction, pgs 146-69) (d) ibid (Appendix II: Microscopic entropy estimation, pgs. 177-85).
3. Boggs, Carl. (2001). The End of Politics: Corporate Power and the Decline of the Public Sphere (section: Sex Scandal and Political Entropy, pgs. 2-3). Guilford Press.
4. (a) Theil, H. (1969). 'The Desired Level of Political Entropy', American Political Science Review, 69: 521-525.
(b) Henri Theil (1967, 1970) – used entropy (information theory type) to formulate his Theil index, a measure of economic of inequality.
(c) Henri Theil – Wikipedia.
5. Pfeffer, Jeffrey. (1981). Power in Organizations (pg. 32). Pitman Pub.
6. Franks, Benjamin. (1992). Political Entropy in the Jewish Diaspora (pamphlet). Pentagon.
7. Lyotard, Jean-François. (1993). Political Writings (pg. 99-100). University of Minnesota Press.

Further reading
● Cerny, Philip G. (1989). “Political Entropy and American Decline”, Journal of International Studies, Vol. 18, No. 1., pgs. 47-63.
● Pavlik, Alan. (2007). “Political Entropy: Things Resolving to Their Most Random State and Lowest Energy Level”. Vol. 5, No. 10, Mar. 11, JustAboveSunset.com.

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