I am currently working on a book about the links between various areas of
"systems approach", or whatever we may call it, and broadly
defined security. So I also had to read something on applications
of thermodynamic models in social sciences.
As to avoid any misunderstandings, I graduated in physics and in
management. I am a kind of "former physicist" but it helps me in
uderstanding the sense of the problems. In case of difficulties, I can
always ask my Colleagues who are physicists.
Applications of thermodynamics in studying society is a very
well-known issue. All depends how we define social system.
If we use "tangible models", thus attempts to find entropy, equilibrium,
no-equilibrium, dissipative structures, etc. can bring some results.
The main problem is that broadly understood "social systems" are mental
and linguistic constructs. So we are affected by the participant-observer
Thus we enter the applications of metaphors and/or analogies,
or, in other words, linguistic variables. In my approach I prefer a
moderate version of constructivism.
In such case writing that a social system is in a far-from-equilibrium
state is but another narrative which could be affected by reification of
In my opinion such a "scientistic" language has been immensely abused by
social scientists who do not know physics and by people coming from "hard
science", who some day discover that their models can be used for
studying, or sometimes, even saving, society/humanity.
I have even a hypothesis that using in social studies such terms as chaos,
complexity, turbulence affects the minds at archetypical/subconscious
level. It's my simplified explanation why studies referring to those
ideas attract so much attention.
It's a very old problem although not so trivial.
For example, one of the challenges of modern economic thought is to
assess to what extent economic ideas drawing on 18th and 19th century
mechanics (equilibrium, stability, etc.), could be applied in modern economic
theory and practice.
I am sorry, but I cannot get involved too often in the discussion. I am
busy writing about some of the issues discussed here.
Regards, Czeslaw Mesjasz
Assoc. Prof. dr hab. Czesław Mesjasz
Cracow University of Economics
ul. Rakowicka 27
Tel: +48-12-293-56-19; Fax: +48-12-293-50-67
e-mail: [log in to unmask]
For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org
For the Metaphorum Collaborative Working Environment (MCWE) go to: www.platformforchange.org
METAPHORUM eList Archive available at - https://listserv.heanet.ie/ucd-staffordbeer.html
Archive of CYBCOM eList available at - http://hermes.circ.gwu.edu/archives/cybcom.html