Sociological thermodynamics

Gligor on social thermodynamics
A 2013 tip by Mircea Gligor on thermodynamics applied to sociology or psychology.
In hmolscience, sociological thermodynamics, aka "social thermodynamics" (Sorokin, 1928), socio-thermodynamics (Muller, 2002), or physico-chemical social dynamics (Adams, 1908), a branch of human thermodynamics, is the study, analysis, and prediction of the behavior of processes in human social systems, modeled as thermodynamic systems, according to the laws of thermodynamics, particularly those related to energy and entropy.

In 1895 to 1910, the Adams brothers, Henry Adams and Brooks Adams, introduced and or employed a number thermodynamics views and ideas in a sociological context, so to define the loose subject of human thermodynamics, to be the physico-chemical explanation of sociology and history. In particular, in reference to the development of a potential science of history thermodynamics, Adams stated that: [8]

“If the physicists and physico-chemists can at last find their way to an arrangement that would satisfy the sociologists and historians, the problem would be wholly solved [but] such a complete solution [socio-history thermodynamics] seems not impossible; but at present call for the aid of another Newton.”

In 1935, American physical chemist Lawrence Henderson began teaching a thermodynamics based course at Harvard called Sociology 23 based, in part, on the work of Willard Gibbs.

In 1943, Russian-born American sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, in his chapter “Declaration of Independence of Sociology and the Social Sciences from the Natural Sciences”, employed the term “physicochemical sociology”, in what seems to be a derogatory label to Henderson's chemical thermodynamics based Sociology 23 course and Henderson's general 1930s Harvard Pareto circle, which Sorokin took part in, in respect to debate against Henderson. [13]

In the 1960s, the concept of "social entropy" began to emerge in various publications.

In 1972, American political scientist Marlan Blissett, in his Politics in Science, was using the term specific term "social thermodynamics" in a metaphorical chapter devoted to the subject of “laws of social thermodynamics” (similar to the laws of human thermodynamics). [4] In the late 1970s, some began to model social systems from a "far-from-equilibrium" dissipative structure point of view, along the lines of Belgian chemist Ilya Prigogine's non-equilibrium type of thermodynamics. [3] In 1978, Russian physical chemist Georgi Gladyshev outline a theory of hierarchical thermodynamics theory in which social systems could be studied according to their work producing functions as determined by the combined law of thermodynamics. [1]

In the 1980s, Mirza Beg introduced the general subject of physicochemical sociology, in book form, based on chemical thermodynamics.

In 1990, American sociologist Kenneth Bailey summarized the position of thermodynamics and particularly entropy in sociology, as follows: [10]

“Many sociologists remain unfamiliar with the concept of entropy. Those who are aware of it often associate it with thermodynamics and often consider entropy a property of heat systems. Thus, they feel that its application to social phenomena is inappropriate at worst and unfruitful at best.”

In general, however, social systems can be analyzed from a number of thermodynamic perspectives. Many sociologists tend towards a Prigoginean thermodynamics approach. From a hierarchical thermodynamics point of view, societies can be modeled using a Gibbs free energy perspective in relation to a systems-within-systems approach. [1] One concept, loosely developed in this field, is social entropy. Synonyms include: social thermodynamics, socio-thermodynamics, and in some cases sociodynamics. [8] American anthropologist Eugene Ruyle, who has spent over forty-years investigating this topic, for instance, defines "social thermodynamics" as the combination of ecological energetics with Marx's labor theory of value. [5]

In 2000, Croatian mechanical engineer Josip Stepanić began publishing social system theories using thermodynamics formalism, e.g. social free energy. [9] In 2002, German physicist Ingo Müller introduced the term "socio-thermodynamics" as the study racial divisions and separations in society, which can be understood from a phase-diagram perspective. [2]

Physics and Society
The “Physics and Society” section of, which seems to attract a daily amount of new article submissions (as of 2012). [12]
The following are a few of the recent few dozen sociological thermodynamics papers found at, via keyword search: social + thermodynamics: [11]

● Kulakowski, Krzysztof and Nawojczyk, Maria. (2008). “Sociophysics: an Astriding Science”. May 26.
● Chang, Yi-Fang. (2009). “Social Synergetics, Social Physics, and Research of Fundamental Laws in Social Complex Systems” (abstract), eprint arXiv: 0911.1155.
● Peng, Huan-Kai, Pirolli, Peter, Zhang, Ying, and Hogg, Tad. (2012). “Thermodynamic Principles in Social Collaborations” (abs), Proceedings, Collective Intelligence Conference.
● Hernando, Alberto and Plastino, A. (2012). “Thermodynamics of Urban Population Flows”, Jun.

In 1972, in a dismissal of the idea of any type of social thermodynamics, American economist Paul Samuelson concluded: [6]

“The sign of a half-baked speculator in the social sciences is his search for something in the social system that corresponds to the physicist's notion of entropy.”

Of course the humanities have always remained long and away from the specificity and precision of hard science. Indeed, social sciences generally tend to only discover tendencies in human interaction, most of which are never as immutably consistent as physical laws.

See also
Social atom
Social Avogadro number
Social bond
Social chemistry
Social enthalpy
Social entropy
Social entropy theory
Social energy
Social energetics
Social free energy
Social heat
Social internal energy minimization theory
Social mass
Social pressure
Social physics
Social science
Social system
Social temperature
Social thermodynamics
Social volume

1. (a) Gladyshev, Georgi, P. (1997). Thermodynamic Theory of the Evolution of Living Beings. Commack, New York: Nova Science Publishers.
(b) Gladyshev, Georgi, P. (1978). "On the Thermodynamics of Biological Evolution", Journal of Theoretical Biology, Vol. 75, Issue 4, Dec 21, pp. 425-441.
2. (a) Müller, Ingo. (2002). Socio-thermodynamics – Integration and Segregation in a Population, P: Continuum Mechanics and Thermodynamics 14, 384-404, 2002.
(b) Müller, Ingo and Weiss, Wolf. (2005). Entropy and Energy - a Universal Competition ("Socio-thermodynamics - Integration and Segregation in a Population", ch. 20).Germany: Springer.
3. (a) Lipkowski, Mil. (1979). "The Social Thermodynamics of Ilya Prigogine." Chemical and Engineering News, April 16.
(b) The Phenomenology of Dissipative Structures - David M. Keirsey
4. Blissett, Marlan. (1972). Politics in Science, (pg. 25). Little, Brown.
5. Eugene Edward Ruyle - Curriculum Vitae (Ongoing research projects: "Social Thermodynamics"), 2006.
6. Samuelson, Paul. (1972). The Collected Scientific Papers (pg. 450). Vol. 3, ed. R. Merton. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
7. (a) Etzioni, Amitai. (1968). The Active Society - a Theory of Societal and Politcal Processes, (pg. 95). Free Press.
(b) Nisbet, Robert A. (1970). The Social Bond - an Introduction to the Study of Society, (ch. 10: "Social Entropy", pgs. 260-98). New York: Alfred A. Knoph. 8. (a) Adams, Henry. (1910). A Letter to American Teachers of History, (pg. 199). Google Books, Scanned PDF. Washington.
(b) Burich, Keith R. (1987). “Henry Adams, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and the Course of History. Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 48, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep.), pp. 467-482.
8. Entropy, Sociology, Thermodynamics – The Robinson Rojas Archive.
9. (a) Stepanic, Josip. (2004). "Social Equivalent of Free Energy", Interdisciplinary Description of Complex Systems 2(1), 53-60.
(b) Stepanic, Josip Jr., Stefancic, Hrvoje, Zebec, Mislav Stejepan, and Perackovic, Kresimir. (2000). "Approach to a Quantitative Description of Social Systems based on Thermodynamic Formalism" (PDF). Journal of Entropy, 2, 98-105.
10. Bailey, Kenneth D. (1990). Social Entropy Theory (pg. 72). New York: State University of New York Press.
11. Social + thermodynamics (search) –
12. Physics and Society –
13. Sorokin, Pitirim. (1943). Sociocultural Causality, Space, Time: a Study of Referential Principles of Sociology and Social Science (pg. 4). Publisher.

Further reading
● Myers, Greg. (1985). “Nineteenth-Century Popularizations of Thermodynamics and the Rhetoric of Social Prophecy. Victorian Studies, 29: 35-66.
● Jaffe, K. and Fonck, C. (1994). “Energetics of Social Phenomena: Physics applied to Evolutionary Biology.” (PDF) IL Nuovo Cimento, 16: 543-53.
● Scafetta, Nicola, Hamilton, Patti, and Grigolini, Paolo. (2001). "The Thermodynamics of Social Processes: the Teen Birth Phenomenon" (PDF). Fractals, Vol. 9, No. 2, 193-208.
Minkes, Jürgen. (2000). “Society as a Many Particle System” (PDF), Physics Department, University of Paderborn.

External links
Thermodynamic Principles for Social Sciences - an Introduction (Douglas R. White).
● Hagens, Nate and Bradford, Jason (interviewer). (2008). “Nate Hagens and the Maximum Power Principles: Energy Supply, Economics, Ecology and Evolution, Neuroscience, Sociology and Evolution” (audio), Reality Report, 30 June.

External links
Social thermodynamics theory – Wikipedia.

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