The Psychology of America’s Decline #5


The Psychology of America’s Decline #5

In science, it is important to measure the phenomena under study. As you have learned, it is not difficult to measure the rates per 100,000 of population to assess important social indicators. Also, it is no longer difficult to understand the mechanisms involved in changing the behaviors of individuals, and envision the multiplication of various behavior patterns within our population through the known mechanisms and avenues of behavioral contagion.

But to develop measures of the impact of all of previously discussed factors upon the health and viability of America (or any socioculture) will require the development of yet another conception. This concept is one that I call Social Entropy. But first it is important to lay some important groundwork for its construction.

Physical Entropy

The concept of entropy is not new. Jeremy Rifkin (1980) Other Authors wrote the book, Entropy. He noted that Albert Einstein held that entropy was “the premier law of all science”.  He also noted that Einstein judged that entropy, the second law of thermodynamics was the physical law most unlikely to be ever invalidated. He further noted that the scientist Sir Arthur Edington asserted that the Entropy Law was “the supreme metaphysical law of the entire universe”.

The principle of entropy was originally described by a French army officer named Sadi Carnot while he was investigating the workings of the the steam engine. The German physicist, Rudolf  Clausius was the first to use the term, entropy, in 1868. It was the field of thermodynamics that yielded this extraordinarily important scientific concept.

The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy or matter cannot be created or destroyed and that the total amount of energy in the universe is finite and constant.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that matter and energy can only be transformed or changed and that the direction of change is always from energy which is available for use, to energy which is not available for use.

The Third Law of Thermodynamics states that “processes which do not conform to the First and Second Law cannot occur“.

The concept of entropy is based upon the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Rifkin (1980) defined entropy as “a measure of the amount of energy no longer capable of conversion into work”. Another common definition of entropy centers on the “tendency of organized matter to move in the direction of disorganization, deterioration, and chaos”.

While both of these definitions can be adapted to have relevance to our sociocultural analysis purposes, the concept of the amount of energy not available to maintain a system or process, is most germane.  Although the energy-not-available concept will normally be used within the following discussions, the tendency-toward-disorganization will also be a very useful and compatible subordinate concept.

A simple example of entropy in the physical world is the burning of a log. I fondly recall my dear father explaining this concept to me when I was a child. A piece of wood represents free and easily used energy in a highly organized state. When the wood is burned, nothing physical is actually lost in the universe. The wood is simply converted into various gases and ash residue. The energy has been converted from free to bound energy.  It was once easily used through the process of combustion, but now it is much less available for convenient or easy use. Another, more troublesome, example of entropy is the dramatically escalating use of our planet’s fossil fuels. These natural resources represent a finite supply of “free or unbound” energy. Once this fuel is combusted, or converted, the byproducts will represent bound energy which are no longer so easily available to do work.

It is clear that physical scientists are convinced that the entropy law manifests a great deal of reliability, validity and generality across all of their disciplines. The conception of entropy in the physical sciences is not only the result of diligent research, but this concept has functioned as an immensely valuable catalyst for further scientific advancements.

I believe the concept of entropy can be adapted to understand a large part the puzzle of the worlds sociocultures that inevitably fall into decline and often have totally collapsed.

Please Stay Tuned!

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 2/27/12

You are welcome to share my writing on this topic. But, reproducing for commercial use is prohibited

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: