Thursday, October 8, 2009

Social Thermodynamics

The new Encyclopedia of Human Thermodynamics (EoHT), launched in December 2007, is a wiki of 1,150 articles related to the thermodynamics of human systems.

Within EoHT is a subsection on Sociological Thermodynamics. Under this heading I found a section on Niklas Luhmann and a French co-theorist that I hadn't heard of before, Jacque Ellul. The sociology subsection contains a list of social theorists of thermodynamics. Among these is an American anthropologist, Eugene Ruyle, who developed social thermodynamic theory based on Marx's labor theory of value; Edgar Morin, a French philosopher who developed a "complexity theory" of sociology; and Adrian Bejan, a Romanian-born mechanical engineer at MIT, applies thermodynamics in his "constructural theory" of society.

The author of the EoHT believes that the use of thermodynamic theory in sociology is still fairly new. The wiki was started by Sadi Carnot, aka, Libb Thims.

I had been looking for some connection between Luhmann and thermodynamics. I knew that he had a cybernetic theory, but not necessarily a thermodynamic model. I still think that Luhmann's thermodynamics is only partial, mainly concerned with entropy. But that the fact that he conceives society as an autopoietic system is an excellent place to begin to construct a sociology of thermodynamics.

The page lists some excellent sources, including Douglas White's Thermodynamic Principles for Social Sciences.


  1. Ah, good ol' Luhmann... I'm presenting on him next week ;)

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