How To Predict A Culture’s Decline

How To Predict A Culture’s Decline

How can a socioculture tell when it is headed for decline? Perhaps you might think that some economic measure would tell the story. It could, but I think it would be a relatively late indicator–perhaps too late.

What is needed is an early warning system, an alarm that would alert the socioculture in question to the fact that the main source of its vitality, the core “fuel cell”, that powers its growth and maintenance is running out of energy.

The concept of physical entropy is a well known principle in science (the Second Law of Thermodynamics). This law states that energy tends toward disorganization or dissipation and that it can be transformed from a “free” and easily used form into one which is “bound” and not very useful.

What is needed for a science of sociocultural health and viability assessment is a conception that I will call Social Entropy. I define social entropy as that proportion of human behavioral energy, within a population, which is not available to build and maintain the socioculture–but functions as a drain upon it .

In any socioculture, there is a population that is working diligently: inventing, starting businesses, employing others, having and rearing children, educating others, or in some important way is expending their human energy that builds and maintains their socioculture. You could call this proportion of any population, in any socioculture, the cultural sustainers. This human energy source is free and available to do work.

An opposite force in any socioculture is that of the cultural drainers. This proportion, in any society, represents bound energy. They represent human energy that is not only unavailable to do work that sustains its socioculture, but it also functions as a drain upon the socioculture. The size of the drain relates to how much energy the socioculture must expend to acculturate or maintain this population. Infants, children, adolescents and the aged or infirmed are in this category (as we all were, and will be again). Those who are engaged in criminal activity, in jails and prisons, who are drug and alcohol addicted, seriously mentally ill, disabled, on public welfare, or otherwise unemployed are also sociocultural drainers.

These people are unavailable to do work to maintain and sustain the socioculture in which they reside and their proportion of the whole population is the measure of social entropy. Of course not all cultural drainers represent a loss to the socioculture in which they reside. Infants and children are a resource drain that promises greater returns in the future. If they are well educated and acculturated they can represent a net gain for sociocultural viability. Even many of the aged can represent a continuing gain to the socioculture if their energy can be productively utilized. Other categories of social entropy that I have identified in the paragraph above are likely to offer little or no returns on sociocultural investments.

A consortium of scholars trained in demographics, mathematical modeling and statistics might be able to develop a quantitative index of social entropy which could have great utility. Presumably, any socioculture that regularly measures its own levels of social entropy and then effectively takes early corrective actions to keep it at low proportions could sustain viability and enjoy a strong survival advantage.

Any Ph.D. students need a thesis project?

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D. 8/2/10

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4 Responses to “How To Predict A Culture’s Decline”

  1. The Batman Says:

    You are ignoring the alarming fact that the available to work, invent, start businesses, and have children, may also be functionally mentally ill with particular odd tics that become the norm in a certain socioculture and go unnoticed as harmful anti-energy and are mistaken for something that is good. These functional yet poisonous elements could very well become the dominant destructive force polluting the stream of potential cultural sustainers by creating damns of bad taste that mix more poison to strangle potential sustainers of good taste leaving them to swirl down the drain in hopelessly poisoned sociocultural sewers.
    Example: a wildly crooked and wealthy Public Servant that sustains itself and undeserving wealth by kissing the ass of other cultural mutants in high positions decides the best way to lead is to discourage creativity and culturally tasteful decisions in Public Servants of a lower pay but higher order of morality and character.
    The mentally ill like the physically ill are not ill when they are being treated. They are healing cultural sustainers and sleeping giants one day to wake and flush the poisonous (epletive edited out by the “Skipper”) down the toilet our society was turned into by the so-called cultural sustainers. Skipper, you don’t know much at all. The Cultural Sustainers are a Cultural shipwreck.


    • vtmawhinney Says:


      Thanks for your reply. If I get your gist, you are angry at the crooks, liers and cheats in high finance, government and elsewhere.

      So am I. I say throw the bums out and prosecute and punish them if that is possible.

      The culture sustainers are not the crooks…the crooks are the culture drainers.

      One thing for sure, the more I learn the more I know that I “don’t know much at all”. I really do need to know much more than I do and at 70 yrs, I am still trying to learn bout you?

      Your welcome to sound off on my blog anytime..just please clean-up your language a little.

      VTM….I really like “Skipper”



    The Social Entropy that you define,and elaborate on should include the ‘Laws” of that socioculture which can sustain or drain.
    Two socicultures that come to mind,with laws that drained, was the Roman Empire’s persecution of the Christians,and Germany’s (WWII) persecution of the Jews.
    You may have intuitively included ‘Laws” in your comments,if so then please excuse my novice interpretation.


    • vtmawhinney Says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Howard. They are worth posting, so see them and my response in the main post area.



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