The Psychology of America’s Decline # 6

The Psychology of America’s Decline # 6

Social Entropy

I once read that John Lock stated that “Eeverything in nature is waste until humans transform it”. While one might fashion a counter-argument against this decidedly homocentric view, I believe it is clearly true of human beings themselves. The human infant is perceptually precocious, but its psychomotor and cognitive skills are so poorly developed that they will need intensive care and teaching by other humans (transformation) for many years following their birth.  If the infant is abandoned it will simply die. For reasons of my profound and undeniable personal bias on this matter, I would call this failed transformation by humans, a very sad waste.

The skillful and loving care and teaching of a developing child will normally produce very useful forms of good behavioral contagion, and that is a marvelous thing. The neglectful, abusive, or unskilled care and teaching of children will normally lead damaging forms to bad behavioral contagion and that is a very sad and wasteful outcome. If transformational rates of bad behavioral contagion increase dramatically within any human population, they can lay waste to precious current and future human energy reservoirs available to build and sustain their resident culture.

Rifkin and others have discussed ways in which the entropy law might be applied to some social activities such as economics, urbanization, the military and education. I will now suggest that there may be powerful utility in extending an adaptation of the entropy law to the examination of changes in the quality and potential of populations to do  work to sustain their sociocultures. The useful human energy available in a population comprising a society and its culture is a resource that can be created and it can be destroyed and used-up, by a great many events; most of which are mediated by other human beings.

I have called my adaptation of the entropy concept biopsychosocial entropy. The meaning of the unwieldy designation ,biopsychosocial, has been defined in earlier parts of this book. We will now use a shorted designation, social entropy as when we referred to behavioral contagion rather that biopsychosocial contagion. However, it is important to remember that both behavioral contagion and social entropy increase or decrease in one, or in combinations of biological, psychological, or social domains.

Social entropy is defined as: The proportion of human behavioral energy, within a population, that is not available to build and maintain the socioculture–but functions as a drain upon it.

It is important to note that with physical entropy, according to theory, entropy can only increase in the universe. Theoretically physical entropy is not reducible. From this perspective, there is no such a thing as negative entropy.

However, with the special adaptation of this concept to the analysis of populations within sociocultures, this changes dramatically. A socioculture is not a “closed system”. Its territory many expand or contract, birth rates and immigrations rates may increase or decrease, rates of good and bad behavioral contagion may increase or decrease, and with all of this the proportions a culture sustaining population will fluctuate. Given the definition of social entropy to be used for our cultural analyses, or even within the population of the world, its proportions can increase or decrease.

In spite of the fact that the concept of social entropy does not conform to the first, second and therefore the third law of thermodynamics, I will hope to make its utility for cultural analysis applications clear.

If we return to the Cultural Decompensation Model introduced in Chapter 1 (and as reviewed briefly at the start of the present chapter), you will understand the product of a great many of the biopsychosocial events that impact a population for better or worse is geometrically summarized in the last (adults) segment on the right hand side of this figure. To see this figure, please go to Vision 5 in my blog of 9/14/09.

What is portrayed here is the total of the adult population in America. No matter how this population may grow or diminish in absolute numbers what is contained within this section is 100 percent of the total population of adults.

The trapezoid appearing roughly in the center of this section displays the “proportion of human behavioral energy within a population” that are physically and emotionally healthy enough to do work to create and maintain the socioculture. I call them the culture sustaining population. The trapezoid at the top contains the proportion of the population that is aged, 65 years and older. These individuals have withdrawn (or are beginning to withdraw) their personal energy from building and sustaining the socioculture. The trapezoid at the bottom contains the proportion of our population that are children, youth, or adults who are not in the workforce. It also includes members of this population that are physically or mentally impaired for any reason, as well as those who are at risk for biopsychosocial dysfunction. Added together, those in the top and bottom two trapezoids represent current and probable future drains on the resources of any socioculture under study.

To gain a rough clinical picture of the biopsychosocial health, vitality and viability of America (or any socioculture), it is imperative to keep an eye on the center trapezoid. This is the visual geometric and mathematical representation of social entropy: The proportion of human behavioral energy, within a population, that is not available to build and maintain the socioculture–but functions as a drain upon it.

An oversimplified, though potentially useful, formula for approximating  social entropy indices for a socioculture is as follows:

CS = Culture Sustaining Population

T = Total Population

SE = Social Entropy

I.e., CS / T x 100 =  CS %

For example, if our population was 450 million individuals and our culture sustaining population was 220 million, the culture sustaining population would be 48.9 %.

The proportion of human behavioral energy, within a population, that is not available to build and maintain the socioculture–but functions as a drain upon it is social entropy.

I.e., T% (100) – CS% = SE

If, at any point in time, America’s CS index is 48.8%, its reciprocal social entropy index would be 51.1 %, and visa-versa.

At this time, I cannot tell you what the social entropy score is that would indicate, probable, certain, or catastrophic social decompensation for any particular socioculture. For the sake of discussion, I suspect that SE percents increasing into the lower 40’s should be reason for concern. I imagine that SE percents in the high 40’s should be reason for grave concern. It is likely, however, that critical SE scores would differ somewhat depending upon structural, infrastructural, superstructural, as well as other variables particular to a specific  socioculture.

However, I am certain that for any socioculture these profoundly important (but, as of yet undetected) social entropy scores exist. I have faith that they can be determined by scientific methods. Furthermore, I believe that science can provide useful guidelines to sociocultures for maintaining low social entropy measures and better maintaining the health and viability of sociaocultures.

To do this will require a new paradigm.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.

Readers  have my permission to share this information for noncommercial purposes only.

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