Sociology 23

Sociology 23
(Harvard University, 1938-1942)

Mathematical Economics
(Harvard University, 1934-1938)
On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances (highlighted)


Treatise on General Sociology
In 1938 to 1942, American physical chemist Lawrence Henderson taught a physicochemical based sociology course called “Sociology 23”, to undergraduates at Harvard University, in which the physical science works of Vilfredo Pareto (1897-1912) and Willard Gibbs (1876) were used as a basis and framework to explain social phenomenon.
In hmolscience, Sociology 23, or "Concrete Sociology", was a physical science and physicochemical based sociology course taught by American physical chemist and physiologist Lawrence Henderson, during the academic years spring 1938 to 1942, the year of Henderson's death (dereaction), at Harvard—a precipitate of the fall 1932-launched Pareto seminar (see: Harvard Pareto circle), which was still running at the time (continuing for "seven or eight years", recalls student Bernard Barber, or thereabouts)—wherein the rational mechanics based socioeconomic principles of French-born Italian mathematical engineer turned socioeconomist Vilfredo Pareto, specifically his mechanical-to-social phenomenon table (1897) and his Treatise on General Sociology (1912), admixtured or rather upgraded with the chemical thermodynamics and phase models of American engineer Willard Gibbs, specifically viewing human interactions as equilibrium adjusting chemical reactions, reaching points of minima and maxima of free energy, were used as a framework to study human relations in a variety of cases. [1]

In 1932, Lawrence Henderson, at Harvard, initiated the seminar entitled “Pareto and the Methods of Scientific Investigation” on Italian engineer Vilfredo Pareto's unified large-scale modelling of socio-political phenomena and history, via the “society as a system of mutually interacting particles”, making equilibrium adjustments. [2]

The "Pareto Seminar", aka Harvard Pareto circle, ran for seven to eight years, or thereabouts, according to Bernard Barber (1970), who was then an undergraduate at the time. [6]

Dates for when "Sociology 23" actual started vary; some stating the course started in 1935; Bernard Barber, the first to published the lecture notes, in 1970, states that "Sociology 23" was first offered in spring 1938, which is when he took it as an undergraduate. Henderson, himself, seems to state that the course ran four four years, from 1938 to 1941/42. Another source, however, seems to indicated that in 1935 a sociology course, initially entitled “Seminary in Methods and Results of Certain Sociological Investigations”, an idea precipitate formed out of the Pareto seminar, was initiated by Henderson; the course was later renamed “Concrete Sociology: A Study of Cases”, and by 1938 available as second edition mimeographed copies labeled as: “Concrete Sociology: Introductory Lectures, Sociology 23.” [1]

English modern political thought historian Joel Isaac summarizes Henderson’s Sociology 23 as follows: [3]

“By the mid-1930s, Henderson had embedded the study of Pareto in the undergraduate curriculum of Harvard College. In the academic year of 1935-36, with the Pareto seminar still running, Henderson began teaching Sociology 23, [an] attempt to demonstrate the applicability of the Paretian framework to the study of human relations in a variety of cases, each provided by a speaker acquainted with the ‘practical affairs’ in medicine, business, and the law. Several of those asked to lecture on the course had participated in the Pareto seminar. Brinton, Homans, Parsons, Mayo, Roethlisberger, Whitehead, DeVoto, and Kluckhohn all presented. Henderson also recruited senior figures to his cause: Harvard professors Arthur Nock and Edwin Wilson. The contributors to Sociology 23 were a heterogeneous bunch but, as Roethlisberger later recalled, they were united, in Henderson’s mind at least, by a common orientation: the property which determined who was included in this set of persons was: ‘did you get the point of Henderson’s seminar on Pareto?’ If you had, you were in; if you had not, you were out.”

Barber states that course operated such that Henderson spent the first few hours at the beginning of each semester commenting upon the latest version of the three "lectures" that he had written out, and a copy of them, mimeographed and bound in paper, handed out to each student. Henderson then had a series of 25 guest lecturers, e.g. Crane Brinton (speaker one), on illegitimacy legislation in the French Revolution, George Homans (speaker two), on rural England in the thirteenth century, Elton Mayo (speaker three), on the organization of work in a Pennsylvania factory, the other 22 speakers listed by Bernard Barber (pg. 41), give a presentation on a topic they were familiar with, in some way connected with the general Pareto-Gibbs "conceptual scheme" learned form the Pareto seminar. Henderson would then interject comments during the guest lectures, in a way that would increase their relevance. d
Henderson social system (1938)
Lawrence Henderson's "box spring" social system model, from his "Sociology 23" lectures (pg. 137), according to which A, B, and C are people in social system abc, who are interconnected via elastic forces 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, all of which reacts according to Le Chatelier's principle (see: social Le Chatelier principle), such that if, say, a weighted force, that were not too large, were put (or pulled down on) individual A and they released, the system would restore back to its original configuration.

Box spring | Social system
Henderson spends a certain amount of time trying to connect or or visually depict Vilfredo Pareto's version of Le Chatelier's principle via a "box spring model", particularly on pages 137 to 143 of his "Sociology 23 Lectures", the diagram of which shown adjacent; with which he attempt to argue that in the "system" view of (a) changes from state one to state two to state three and (b) each person interconnected to each other via spring-like forces or bands, that cause and effect analysis becomes usurped, or obviated, in some sense; the following are example statements on this line of reasoning:

“A correlation between two things is observed, say, values of the pressure and of the volume of a gas. A simple algebraic expression for this correlation is then found, in this instance Boyle’s law, PV = k. One is then tempted to say that pressure is the cause that a gas has a certain volume. But reasoning from this cause, or from Boyle’s law, may lead to conclusions that are misleading and altogether useless, because temperature and volume are mutually dependent, and likewise of course temperature and pressure.”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pg. 143)

“In a social system, and, as a rule, elsewhere, an action initiated in a certain thing leads to modifications everywhere in the system, and these modifications to further modifications which involve the very thing in which the process originated. So it is both ‘cause’ and ‘effect’. Moreover, the notion that the process originated at a certain point is, as often as not, no better than the legal fiction that it is sometimes actually as in the law courts, when it becomes necessary to somehow fix responsibility for a chain of event and there is no objective test, but only a perhaps ambiguous legal convention for doing so. Thus, reasoning from cause to effect in the study of concrete phenomena is often more misleading than more general reasoning of the same kind.”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pgs. 143)

“The misleading action of cause to effect reasoning is particularly true of the interactions of men. Thus, thousands of pages have been written about the causes of the war of 1914 to 1918. But there is no agreement about these causes, or about when or where they originated or about the chains of events that they initiated. And there can be none.”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pgs. 143-44); here Mark Buchanan (2000), we note, would beg to differ (see: tipping point)

“An enduring change in a social system, say, a change of form of government or, not infrequently, an apparently less important change like the change of a law or of a technological process may involve a change from one state of equilibrium of the social system to a very different state. The changes of the system somewhat resemble the changes observed in a game of cat’s cradle.”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pg. 146)

Similar arguments, to note, are found in his earlier books, e.g. in his "An Approximate Definition of Fact" (1932), he gives a similar geometry diagram as above, commenting that: "in organic processes cause-and-effect analysis leads, in general, to erroneous conclusions" (pg. 163); the subject of which requires further digestion.

Quotes | Employed
The following are quotes employed by Henderson in his Sociology 23 lectures:

“It seems to me that those sciences which are not born of experience, the mother of all certainty, and which do not end in known experience—that is to say, those sciences whose origin or process or end does not pass through any one of the five senses—are vain and full of error.”
Leonardo da Vinci (c.1500), A Treatise on Painting (Trattato della Pittura) (pg. 33); cited by Lawrence Henderson (1938) in “Sociology 23” (pg. 78)

“The human understanding is no dry light, but receives an infusion from the will and affections; whence proceed sciences which may be called ‘sciences as one would’. For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless in short are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections color and infect the understanding.”
Francis Bacon (1620), New Instrument of Science (Novum Organum Scientiarum), Book I, Aphorism XLIX; cited by Lawrence Henderson in “Sociology 23” (pg. 131) [9]

“Note by way of the nature of mathematical definitions which consist merely by the imposition of names or, if you prefer, abbreviations of speech established and introduced in order to avoid tedious drudgery.”
Galileo (1638), Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences (pg. 28); cited by Lawrence Henderson in “Sociology 23” (pg. 84)

“Most of the evils of the world arise from man’s inability to sit still in a room.”
Blaise Pascal (c.1640), Source; cited by Walter Bagehot (c.1872); cited by Lawrence Henderson in “Sociology 23” (pg. 124) [8]

“So many are links, upon which the true philosophy depends, of which, if any one be loose, or weak, the whole chain is in danger of being dissolved; it is to begin with the hands and eyes, and to proceed on through the memory, to be continued by the reason; nor is it to stop there, but to come about to the hands and eyes again, and so, by a continual passage round from one faculty to another, it is to be maintained in life and strength, as much as the body of a man is by the circulation of the blood through the several parts to the body, the arms, the feet, the lungs, the heart, and the head.”
Robert Hooke (1665), Micrographia (preface); cited by Lawrence Henderson in “Sociology 23” (pg. 77)

Bentham should have adopted as the creed of his life and watchword of his party an expression which is meant to be quantitatively precise, and yet when scientifically analyzed may appear almost unmeaning, is significant of the importance to be attached to the science of quantity. ‘Greatest happiness of the greatest number’—is this more intelligible than ‘greatest illumination with the greatest number of lamps’?”
Francis Edgeworth (1881), Mathematical Psychics; cited by Lawrence Henderson in “Sociology 23” (pg. 132) [10]

“If the universe is a universe of thought, then its creation must have been an act of thought.”
James Jeans (1930), The Mysterious Universe (pg.154); cited by Lawrence Henderson in “Sociology 23” (pg. 134); Henderson says: “this is an enthymeme and therefore suspect”

Sociology 23
A rendition of Henderson's circa 1932 vision of "Sociology 23", namely: Vilfredo Pareto's version of the social system described in the physicochemical system equilibrium-changing terminology of Willard Gibbs.
Quotes | Lecture
The following are noted "Sociology 23" lecture note statements or quotes:

Sociology is the study of phenomena which includes all events and processes in which interactions between two or more persons occur; generally limited to conventionally non-negligible interactions.”
Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pg. 59) [7]

“There is a test for [the avoidance of Cnidian school thinking] [and for] the [Hippocratic] kind of thinking, i.e. the avoidance of the concealment of ignorance with systematic knowledge, namely, the question: ‘for example?’ Those who generalize form experience almost always pass the test; others do not. Indeed the test is frequently destructive of unfounded generalizations and is likely to lead to painful embarrassment. For this reason its use is often expedient.”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pg. 70) [7]

“Physicists use both the undulatory theory and the corpuscular theory of light in their modern forms, but it is hard to find anyone who uses both the Marxian and the Fascist theories of society.”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pgs. 76-77)

“In general, the conceptual scheme of science are simpler and more clearly defined than our common sense conceptual schemes. Examples of scientific schemes are: the theory of the constitution of atoms in recent physics, the theory of the constitution of molecules in organic chemistry, Willard Gibb’s physicochemical system, Morgan’s theory of the gene, Darwin’s theory of evolution. Each of these owes it clearness and simplicity to the fact, among others, that it has reference to a limited class of phenomena, or to certain aspects of phenomena, and to a limited class of problems. Its usefulness depends, among other things, upon the extent to which such limitations permit useful work. Thus Gibbs’ system represents the world as made up of physicochemical systems, but excludes from consideration the ordinary phenomena of mechanics, psychological phenomena, and the interactions between persons.”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pg. 87)

“The position that we shall take in this book is that Pareto’s social system is in some respects analogous in its usefulness to Gibbs’ physicochemical system. This system of Pareto’s disregards physical, chemical, and physiological phenomena, but makes possible in some measure the consideration of all interactions between persons. Like Gibbs’s system, it is clear and simple. We shall use this [Pareto-Gibbs] system because it [consists of things which have properties (or attributes) and relations] among other more concrete qualities which together make it, in my judgment, the most convenient conceptual scheme now available.”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pg. 88)

“The properties and relations of persons exist not in a changeless state, but in a state of flux. However, the instantaneous states and changes are not chaotic states and changes.”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pg. 88)

Pareto’s social system is in some respects analogous in its usefulness to Gibbsphysicochemical system. This system of Pareto’s disregards physical, chemical, and physiological phenomena, but makes possible in some measure the consideration of all interactions between persons. Like Gibbs’ system, it is clear and simple.”
Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pg. 88); cited by Bernard Barber in: L.J. Henderson on the Social System (pg. 30)

“A social system may consist of two or more persons. Moreover, it is peculiarly convenient and perhaps even more necessary in sociology as in chemistry to begin the study of systems with those in which the number of components is small.”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pg. 89)

“It must be clearly understood that persons are in general members of many subgroups or organizations, and it may be well to bear in mind a rough and in many respects incomplete analogy: as a molecule of water in a flask is now present in the liquid water and later in the air above the liquid, and again in the liquid, so a person is only intermittently a member in action of any group. This analogy is incomplete, especially because, while a molecule of water is in the air we can find no effect of its previous presence in the liquid, a person carries with him the effects of his past activities (hysteresis) and is influenced by the prospective return to those activities.”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pg. 90)

“The liquid water persists while molecules of water enter and leave it, and if the conditions are appropriate, it persists without change of mass. In like manner, some activities of some organizations such as police patrol, the telephone exchange, and many continuous processes in industrial chemistry, metallurgy, etc., persist while the personal changes from time to time in shifts.”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pgs. 90-91)

“Note well that there is no reason to attach either more or less importance to persons because they are the ultimate components of the social system. In like manner, hemoglobin is, in general, neither more or less ‘important’ than the liver, but either may be negligible in a study involving the other. Such things are more or less important, as the case may be. Thus the liver may be important in a case of cancer, hemoglobin in a case of anemia.”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pgs. 91)

“Note carefully that the subgroups of a social system, like the system itself, are different than the sum of the component persons. So also hemoglobin is a different thing than the sum of its constituent atoms, the liver a different thing than the sum of its constituent molecules, and a man is a different thing than the sum of his organs, tissues, and fluids.”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pg. 91)

“Note that, in general, subgroups and systems alike persist though their component persons change. This is obvious in the nation and in the village, it was formerly equally so in the family, but it may be noted almost everywhere: in churches, universities, industrial corporations, clubs, political parties, and innumerable other instances. In like manner, the component molecules of a living organism are constantly changing, but the organism persists. So it is, again, with the flame of a candle—the time-honored analogy, in this respect, to a living organism. ”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pg. 91)

“Remember the rough analogy: such enduring things are to the whole social system more or less as the organs of the human body are to the whole body, and the individual persons are somewhat similar to the chemical molecules of the body. But do not reason form this or any or any other analogy.”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pg. 113)

“Social processes, like physical and chemical processes, have velocities that appear to be determined, in general, by the specific characteristics of the factors and conditions. When the attempt is made, say, to hasten them beyond a certain point the processes often change their character and the results may be different. In both cases phenomena that are more or less vaguely described as ‘explosions’ — figuratively in the social sense— may ensue.”
— Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pg. 135)

“A very important fact, which should never be forgotten in studying social phenomena, that nearly all supposedly qualitative questions turn out on examination to be quantitative.”
Lawrence Henderson (1938), “Sociology 23” (pg. 142), cited by Bernard Barber in: L.J. Henderson on the Social System (pg. 21)

Wilson | Physicochemical economics
In 1934, American mathematician Edwin Wilson, the famous sole protégé of Willard Gibbs, and noted participate in the Pareto seminar and Sociology 23 invited lecture, discussed, with Harvard economics chairman Harold Burbank, the teaching of “mathematical economics” a thermodynamics/steam engine based course in economics. [5] Sometime, therein or shortly thereafter, Wilson began teaching such a course to economics students. In 1938, e.g. Wilson communicated the following to Burbank in letter:

Schumpeter has suggested that it would be particularly well for me to give as I gave last time a general theory of equilibrium such as this is understood by physical chemists including the phase systems of Willard Gibbs. Most of our equilibrium theory in economics really has for its background the notions of equilibrium which arise in mechanics. Although Pareto was certainly quite familiar with the types of equilibrium which arise in physical chemistry and are necessary in fact for the study of the steam engine he doesn’t use this line of though in economics.”

This "physicochemical economics" course (see also: physicochemical sociology), or “mathematical economics”, as Wilson seemed to refer to it, according to Roy Weintraub, was taken by American economist Paul Samuelson. [5] In 1938, to exemplify, Wilson wrote the following to Samuelson, in commentary on one of Samuelson's papers:

“Moreover, general as the treatment is I think that there is the possibility that it is not so general in some respects as Willard Gibbs would have desired. [In] discussing equilibrium and displacements from one position of equilibrium to another position [Gibbs] laid great stress on the fact that one had to remain within the limits of stability. Now if one wishes to postulate the derivatives including the second derivatives in an absolutely definite quadratic form one doesn’t need to talk about the limits of stability because the definiteness of the quadratic form means that one has stability. I wonder whether you can’t make it clearer or can’t come nearer following the general line of ideas [that] Gibbs has given in his Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances, equation 133.”

The very impressive mention of "equation 133", from Gibbs' subsection "Internal Stability of Homogeneous Fluids as indicated by Fundamental Equations", is the following:

 U - TS + PV - M_1 m_1 - M_2 m_2 ... - M_n m_n \,

Wilson, in other words, is suggesting, as it seems to be, to Samuelson that he use the Gibbs fundamental equation to formulate a theory of economic stability.

Nine years later, in 1947, Samuelson, taking Wilson's advice, used some of this logic, in outline (e.g. Le Chatelier's principle), to pen his magnum opus Foundations of Economic Analysis, which invariably put economics into a new form of a more rigorous, semi-physical science conceptualized or analogized, mathematics-based science; see: Harvard Pareto circle (section: Wilson | Schumpeter | Samuelson) for more on this.

Fall off
See main: Physical sociology falloff problem
The amenable efforts to embed Henderson's "Sociology 23" (and to some extent Wilson's "Physicochemical Economics") into the permanent undergraduate curriculum of Harvard petered out, seemingly, after 1939, for supposedly three reasons. First, was the start of WWI, following which point social and economic study focus switched or rather was diverted to Marxian-based sociology, the historical materialism theories of Karl Marx. Secondly, in 1942 Henderson dereacted (died), meaning no one was left to carry forward the torch; and also because he left no formal "textbook" for such a course. Thirdly, and most-importantly, in spite of the fact that Henderson trained some two-dozen scholars, via his seminar, with him gone, no one had the physical chemistry training to carry forward the formulation of the Gibbs-Pareto based logic of the underlying premise of such a course. In corroboration of these conclusions, in 1968, American sociologist Talcott Parsons, one of the key Pareto seminar participants and Sociology 23 invited speakers, gave his opinion that the reason for the fall off of Pareto-interest, after WWII, was scientific limitation: [4]

“Most of the neglect of Pareto stems from the scientific limitations of subsequent generations of sociologist rather than from his irrelevance to their interests.”

This seems cogent. With the passing (reaction end) of Henderson in 1942, there was no one qualified—a physical chemistry and or chemical thermodynamics background needed at a minimum to translate Pareto's ideas into the language of reaction equilibrium physical chemistry and modern Gibbsian thermodynamics—and capable—Henderson spent the years 1926 to 1932 absorbing the corpus of Pareto’s works (~10 volumes)—enough to lead the way further; hence, into the mid-1940s the wake of the Henderson-driven wave began to reside.

In 1962, when Czechoslovakian-born English sociologist Werner Stark, in commentary on Thomas Huxley’s 1871 call for the development of the field of social chemistry, stated the following: [2]

“Why should no social chemistry ever been developed? Nobody would suggest that the social scientists should imitate meteorology, for this discipline does not appear to have got very far … but what about chemistry? A sociology based on chemistry [has] in fact been called for, but, significantly, [this call has] found no echo. It would have been easy to take up this suggestion and develop it further. An intending social chemist would have found it one whit more difficult to manufacture a sociological parallel to the Boyle-Charles law than Haret did to the Newtonian propositions. But the experiment appears never to have been tried. Why?”

Stark, obviously, was unaware of Sociology 23, as most are, being, that as of 2014, no formal physicochemical humanities like course is presently taught anywhere in the world, for the most part (see: two cultures synergies).

The following are related quotes:

Pareto has described a generalized social system which may be usefully compared with Gibbsphysicochemical system. Pareto’s social system is made of individuals. They are perhaps analogous to the [chemical] components of Gibbs’ system.”
Lawrence Henderson (1935), “Physician as Patient and as a Social System” [11]

See also
Nightingale Chair of Social Physics
Princeton Department of Social Physics
Physicochemical humanities

1. Henderson, Lawrence. (1936). “Concrete Sociology”, Introductory Lectures, Sociology 23 (second edition, 1938), mimeographed for private distribution and available at the Baker Library of the Harvard Business School.
2. (a) Heyl, Barbara. (1968). “The Harvard ‘Pareto Circle’.” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 4:316-34; in: Talcott Parsons: Critical Assessments, Volume 1 (editor: Peter Hamilton) (§2, pgs. 29-49). Taylor & Francis.
(b) Weintraub, E. Roy. (1991). Stabilizing Dynamics: Constructing Economic Knowledge (pgs. 63-64). Cambridge University Press.
3. Isaac, Joel. (2012). Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn (§2: The Harvard Pareto Circle, pgs. 63-91). Harvard University Press.
4. Lopreato, Joseph and Rusher, Sandra. (1983). “Vilfredo Pareto’s Influence on USA Sociology” (abs), Revue Europenne des Sciences Sociales, 21(65):69-122; in: Vilfredo Pareto: Critical Assessments of Leading Economists, Volume 3 (editors: John Wood and Michael McLure) (§74, pgs. 187-237). Taylor & Francis, 1999.
5. Weintraub, E. Roy. (1991). Stabilizing Dynamics: Constructing Economic Knowledge (Wilson letters, pg. 60; also 63-65). Cambridge University Press.
6. Barber, Bernard. (1970). “Introduction to L.J. Henderson”, in: L.J. Henderson on the Social System (pg. 40). University of Chicago Press.
7. Henderson, Lawrence. (1942). “Sociology 23 Lectures”, in: L.J. Henderson on the Social System (editor: Bernard Barber) (§1:57-148). University of Chicago Press.
8. Bagehot, Walter. (1989). The Works of Walter Bagehot, Volume IV (pg. 564). Hartford: Publisher.
9. Bacon, Francis. (1620). The Works of Francis Bacon, Volume 1 (pg. 57). Longman, 1858.
10. Edgeworth, Francis Y. (1881). Mathematical Psychics: an Essay on the Application of Mathematics to the Moral Sciences (lamps, pg. 117). C. Kegan Paul & Co.
11. (a) Henderson, Lawrence. (1935). “Physician as Patient and as a Social System”, New England Journal of Medicine, 212:819-23.
(b) Barber, Bernard. (1970). L.J. Henderson on the Social System (§6:202-13, quote, pg. 205). University of Chicago Press.

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