|Cover of American physical chemist Thomas Wallace's 2009 book Wealth, Energy, and Human Values, on of the first book to go into detail as to how the Gibbs equation determines the rise and fall of societies. |
Socioeconomic thermodynamics | Fundamentals
One of the most-interesting aspects of Wealth, Energy, and Human Values, aside from chapter six, is the 21-page appendix section ‘The Fundamentals of Thermodynamics Applied to Socioeconomics’, in which Wallace attempts to outline the physical chemistry basics of how a society transforms from a ‘initial state’ to a ‘final state’, differing by an amount of energy or rather ‘free energy’, and how the difference between these two states is a path-independent process determined by the enthalpy change ΔH and entropy change ΔS of the process of the societal transformation. The following aggregate quote summarizes the section:
“The thermodynamic parameter free energy, mathematically ΔG = ΔH – TΔS, represents the fundamental driving force in nature and determines whether physical and chemical processes conducted by nature and society will take place.”
Wallace explains further that free energy is ‘nature’s intrinsic dynamic force, representing the probability parameter entropy S and the energy content parameter enthalpy.’
In more correct detail, Wallace, here, to note, is using Boltzmann-Planck type entropy descriptions, which are specifically culled from gas theory, wherein the particles are said to have a non-correlation of velocities. Humans, however, have correlated velocities; subsequently it is necessary to return to the original work of Clausius and his universal description of entropy change as the ‘equivalence value of all uncompensated transformations’, to human social transformation. Beyond this, enthalpy is not simply an ‘energy content parameter’, but one must use the full expression for enthalpy:
ΔH = ΔU + PΔV
to study human social systems in terms of both internal energy changes and the work-energy associated with volume changes in systems, such as exemplified by the volume change in territory in the course of the rise and fall of Rome during a 1,000-years of human reactions.
In his appendix section, Wallace attempts to explain how a society or civilization must pass from an initial state to a final state, transforming along the way, a process that can be quantified on a reaction coordinate:
In his chapter six, on ‘The Mechanisms and Energetics of the Human Social Order’, Wallace explains how the 'final state', which typically represents a minimum of Gibbs free energy, in which the change in Gibbs free energy becomes zero, wherein the system can no longer produce useful work, may often still be seen as a very active 'dynamic equilibrium' state in which internal to the system forward and reverse reactions are still proceeding, but one in which overall there is no net change in free energy.
1. Wallace, Thomas P. (2009). Wealth, Energy, and Human Values: the Dynamics of Decaying Civilizations from Ancient Greece to America. AuthorHouse.
2. ibid, Wallace. (2009). Appendix A: The Fundamentals of Thermodynamics Applied to Socioeconomics, pgs. 469-89; Graph pg. 474.