Social Le Chatelier principle

Box spring model (Henderson)
American physiologist Lawrence Henderson's 1938 "box spring model" of the Pareto-Gibbs sociological extrapolation of the Le Chatelier principle of equilibrium restoration of the system after small modification to the system, which he defines as an equilibrium of forces. [9]
In hmolscience, social Le Chatelier principle is the application of Le Chatelier’s principle to social phenomena.

In circa 1890s, French chemist Henry Le Chatelier (1850-1936), formulator of Le Chatelier’s principle (1884), of equilibrium in chemical systems, supposedly, considered questions of equilibrium and thermodynamics on the level of social and economic relations and wrote extensively on labor relations, equilibria, and efficiency. [1]

In 1910, American physical chemist Wilder Bancroft, in his "A Universal Law" address, gave a rather elaborative discussion of non traditional chemistry examples wherein he sees Le Chatelier's principle at work; the following being an oft-quoted abstract from his address: [2]

“I wish to call your attention to-night to what I believe to be another universal law, a qualitative one and not a quantitative one. The chemists call it Le Chatelier’s Theorem. The physicists call it the the theorem of Maupertuis or the principle of least action. The biologists know it as the survival of the fittest, while the business man speaks of the law of supply and demand.”

In 1912, Vilfredo Pareto, in his Treatise on General Sociology, gave the following definition of what seems to be Le Chatelier’s principle: [3]

“Equilibrium is a state such that if a small modification different from that which will otherwise occur is impressed upon a system, a reaction will at once appear tending toward the condition that would have existed if the modification had not been impresses.”

In 1919, American economist Julius Davidson used Le Chatelier's principle in explaining human pairings. [4]

A 1923 translation of this principle, by Austrian-born American physical chemist Alfred Lotka, supposedly having been influenced by Vilfredo Pareto, states: [5]

“Every system in chemical equilibrium, under influence of a change of every single one of the factors of equilibrium, undergoes a transformation in such direction that, if this transformation took place alone, it would produce a change in the opposite direction of the factor in question. The factors of equilibrium are temperature, pressure, and electromotive force, corresponding to three forms of energy: heat, electricity, and mechanical energy.”

The principle is often used as a basis of argument in subjects including sociology and economics, e.g. as was done by Paul Samuelson, or sociology. [6]

In 1927, American physicist Bruce Lindsay, in his “Physical Laws and Social Phenomena”, defined what he referred to as the Le Chatelier-Braun principle, or the principle of mobile equilibrium or the general law of inertia, which he defined as follows: [7]

“If any one of the factors determining the state of a physical system in equilibrium is altered by external action, the other factors will then change in such a way as to oppose the change in the first.”

Lindsay then sought social examples of the application of this principle in the proverbial inertial exhibited by human institutions, particularly with respect to social reform.”

In the 1930s, American economist Paul Samuelson learned Le Chatelier's principle from the thermodynamics lectures of Edwin Wilson, and soon thereafter employed these models in his 1941 economics PhD dissertation to construct a Pareto-Gibbs like economic equilibrium model, using minima and maxima to determine points of economic equilibrium.

In 1935, American physical chemistry trained physiologist Lawrence Henderson discussed Le Chatelier's principle in respect to the work of Italian engineer turned socioeconomist Vilfredo Pareto, as follows: [8]

“The treatment of equilibrium — which is referred to in note 4 — is logically of great significance. Pareto observes that the state of the social system is determined by its conditions. Therefore, if a small modification of the state of the system is imposed upon it, a reaction will take place and this will tend to restore the original state, very slightly modified by the experiment. This principle is well known, and thus the corresponding facts are familiar to everybody. Thus the disturbances produced by short wars, by epidemics that are not too severe, and by all kinds of lesser catastrophes ordinarily disappear and leave hardly a trace behind them. The case of physiological equilibrium is similar. In fact it is logically identical. These physiological phenomena belong to the same class as those inorganic processes that arise from similar disturbances of physical and chemical equilibrium. This is implied by the similarity of Pareto’s definition of equilibrium—a state such that if a small modification different from that which will otherwise occur is imposed upon a system, a reaction will at once appear, tending toward the conditions that would have existed in the modification had not been imposed—with the theorem of Le Chatelier in thermodynamics.”

In 1938 to 1942, Henderson, in his American physiologist Lawrence Henderson, in his “Sociology 23” lectures was citing Pareto's version of equilibrium and expanding on this definition, as applied to equilibrium in social systems, as follows: [9]

(1) A ball which is in a cup, and struck a blow that is not too hard, will return to its original position;
(2) A candle flame which is deflected by a draft that is not too strong will resume its original form;
(3) A trout brook that is ‘fished out’ will, if carefully protected, regain its former population of fish;
(4) An infant, according to Hippocrates, after a disease that is not too sever will gain in weight until that weight is reached which is approximately what would have been reached if there had been no sickness.

Henderson elaborates that these are examples of “stable equilibrium” but comments that there are other phenomena that resemble: unstable equilibrium, neutral equilibrium. He then comments that both the Pareto and Hippocratic models of equilibrium restoration are like of a box spring mattress after being sat on in that the underlying theory of equilibrium is an equilibrium of forces and force restoration:

“In both cases—Hippocratic analysis and Pareto’s equilibrium—there is the underlying theory that equilibrium, for instance, in a box spring; that a small modification leaves the forces substantially intact; and that the forces tend to reestablish the state that would have existed if no modification had occurred, just as a box spring which has been depressed when someone lies down on it resumes its original form when one gets up.”

Henderson, as example of this, then cites the Feb 1937 Louisville flood, the earthquake and fire in San Francisco, and the devastation of the war of 1914 to 1918 in France. It is doubtful, to note, that WII, as Henderson seems to see things, was an example of stable equilibrium restoration, rather it would have been something as follows:
WWI + WWI Gibbs landscape
In 1943, Samuelson assigned his first PhD student Lawrence Klein the project of generalizing the Le Chatelier principle to quadratic forms of statistical variances; Klein completed his PhD in economics at MIT in 1944. [11] The use of Le Chatelier’s principle in economics, after Samuelson (1947), has since been referred to by Yoshihiko Otani (1982), among others, as the “Le Chatelier-Samuelson principle”, as applicable to the theory of cost and production. [10]

In 1966, American social equilibrium historian Cynthia Russett, summarized Henderson's writings, stated or rather summarized that Le Chatelier’s principle (Lotka version), means the following: [11]

“Equilibrium in society meant simply this: any small change in the state of the system would engender a reaction tending to restore the original state as unmodified as possible. Short wars, for example, or fairly light epidemics, or any of a number of small disasters, would disappear with scarcely a trace.”

In 1968, American business management theorist Bruce Gunn, in his “The Dynamic Synthesis Theory of Motivation”, employed Le Chatelier’s principle to theorize about employee motivation, the abstract of which is as follows: [12]

“An interdisciplinary perspective of employee motivation is presented, based on the premise that the principles of natural science provide the fundamental basis for analogizing the operational similarities of physical and social productive systems. This concept is applied to motivation by observing that all productive systems-whether physical, organic or social-are input-output systems. The lowest common denominators in these systems are energy and mass. Le Chatelier's principle provides the universal environment for motivation. Thus, the transformation of energy in a given productive system represents the essence of motivation. The usefulness of analogizing the process of energy transformation in these two seemingly diverse systems can be seen by tracing the essential factors leading to efficient energy expenditure in physical systems and applying similar strategies to energy transformation in social systems. Such an approach will provide the manager with a concrete frame of reference from which to draw plausible remedies in solving the innumerable problems of efficient motivation and utilization of employee energies.”

(add discussion)

In 1986, someone, possibly German-born Canadian mechanical engineer Rudolf Starkermann, at the International Conference on Mental Images, Values, and Reality (see: social enthalpy), outlined some type of organization management theory, employing: Ross Ashby's theories on adaption, equifinality, autopoieses, and Le Chatelier's principle. [13]

In 1990, American sociologist Kenneth Bailey was writing about Le Chatelier’s principle in reference to Herbert Spencer’s writtings. (Ѻ)

In 1994, American chemical engineer turned sociologist James Coleman, in his Foundations of Social Theory, footnotes a discussion of Le Chatelier’s principle, as having something to do with minimization or maximization of utility. [14]

In 2009, American physical chemist Thomas Wallace applies Le Chatelier's principle, intermixed with Gibbsian thermodynamics, to describe the rise and fall of civilizations.

1. Altmann, Gabriel and Koch, Walter A. (1998). Systems: New Paradigms for the Human Sciences (pg. 231). Walter de Gruyter.
2. Bancroft, Wilder D. (1910). “A Universal Law” (abs), Address of the retiring President of the American Chemical Society, Minneapolis, Dec 28; in: Journal of the American Chemical Society (1911), 33:91-120; in: Science (1911), 33:159-79.
3. Barber, Bernard. (1970). “Introduction”, in: L.J. Henderson on the Social System (pgs. 28, 73). University of Chicago Press.
4. Davidson, Julius. (1919). “One of the Physical Foundations of Economics” (abs), Quarterly Journal of Economics, 33: 717-24.
5. Lotka, Alfred J. (1924). Elements of Physical Biology (pg. 281). Dover.
6. Mosini, Valeria. (2007). Equilibrium in Economics (ch. 2: Between Economics and Chemistry: Lavoisier’s and Le Chatelier’s Notions of Equilibrium, pgs. 45-59). Routledge.
7. (a) Lindsay, Robert B. (1927). “Physical Laws and Social Phenomena”, The Scientific Monthly, 25(2): 127-32.
(b) Lindsay, Robert B. (1983). “Social Exemplifications of Physical Principles”; in: Old and New Questions in Physics, Cosmology, Philosophy, and Theoretical Biology: Essays in Honor of Wolfgang Yourgrau (editor: Alwyn Merwe) (§B7:647-58). Plenum Press.
8. Henderson, Lawrence J. (1935). Pareto’s General Sociology: a Physiologists Interpretation (pg. 47). Harvard University Press.
9. Henderson, Lawrence. (1942). "Sociology 23", in: L.J. Henderson on the Social System (pgs. 28, 73-74). University of Chicago Press, 1970.
10. (a) Takayama, Akira. (1993). Analytical Methods in Economics (§3.6: The Le Chatelier-Samuelson Principle, pgs. 163-86). University of Michigan Press.
(b) Otani, Yoshihiko. (1982). “A Simple Proof of the Le Chatelier-Samuelson principle and the Theory of Cost and Production” (abs), Journal of Economic Theory, 27(2):430-38.
11. Russett, Cynthia. (1966). The Concept of Equilibrium in American Social Thought (pg. 116). Yale College.
12. Gunn, Bruce, Brenner, Michael E., and Mjosund, Arne. (1968). “The Dynamic Synthesis Theory of Motivation”, Management Science, 14(10): B601-25, Jun.
13. Author[s]. (1986). “Presentation” (pg. #; Le Chatelier's principle, Ѻ), in: Proceedings of the International Conference on Mental Images, Values, and Reality, Volume 2, Intersystems Publishing.
14. Coleman, James S. (1994). Foundations of Social Theory (pg. 18). Harvard University Press.

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