Social mechanics (symbol)Outlines of a Mechanics of Society (1881)
Top: a 2002 social mechanics symbol, by Savio Alphanso (Ѻ), signifying the two cultures nature of social mechanics, the cross bridging interdisciplinary study of the nature of the passions of humans and human society and the mechanistic explanations used to explain the operation of those passions. Right: Eduard Sacher's 1881 Outline of a Mechanics of Society, wherein he gives a Mayer-Clausius based semblance of a social mechanics presentation. [17]
In science, social mechanics, a late 19th / early 20th century near-synonym to "social energetics", tends to refer to mechanics, rational mechanics, Newtonian mechanics, celestial mechanics, and or thermodynamics based sociology, depending; generally referring to the use of physical science concepts, culled generally from physics, mechanics, chemistry, applied into the domain of sociology.

Early history
The early history of social mechanics or of social physics, depending on classification scheme, according to American astrophysicist John Q. Stewart (1957), dates as far back as 1769 when American political theorist James Madison (1751-1836), the so-called “father of the constitution” and America’s fourth president, was said to be studying a primitive form of it a Princeton. Stewart also credits Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), another Princetonian, America’s 28th president, as being an early pioneering thinker in social physics/social mechanics:

“[The checks and balances between Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court are] a sort of unconscious copy of the Newtonian theory of the universe [in which] every free body in the space of the heavens … is kept in its place … by the attraction of bodies that swing with equal order and precision about it.”
Woodrow Wilson (1908), writings on the Constitution [14]

(add discussion)

The 1858-initiated work of American sociologist Henry Carey, centered on the following central position:

“Man, the molecule of society, is the subject of social science.”

as outlined in full in his three-volume treatise Principles of Social Science, can well be said to mark the start social mechanics proper, as is often historically summarized as such (Sorokin, 1928; Odum 1929; Stark, 1962). Carey's ideas on "social heat" and friction between "human molecules", and so on, are rather elaborate and worth prolonged investigation.

In 1881, Austrian scientist Eduard Sacher published Outline of a Mechanics of Society, based on the work of Robert Mayer and Rudolf Clausius, one of the first explicit “social mechanics” treatises, wherein he uses physics and thermodynamics concepts as kinetic energy, the mechanical equivalent of heat, principle of the transmission of work, to outline a theory of "rational economics" as he calls it. [17]

In 1881, Irish mathematical economist Francis Edgeworth, in his Mathematical Psychics: an Essay on the Application of Mathematics to the Moral Sciences, expressed his belief that the future would one day see the science of social mechanics vaulted along side that of celestial mechanics in a unified manner: [8]

'Mecanique sociale' may one day take her place along with 'mecanique celeste,' throned each upon the double-sided height of one maximum principle [principles of Lagrange], the supreme pinnacle of moral as of physical science. As the movements of each particle, constrained or loose, in a material cosmos are continually subordinated to one maximum sum-total of accumulated energy, so the movements of each soul, whether selfishly isolated or linked sympathetically, may continually be realising the maximum energy of pleasure. Mecanique sociale, in comparison with her elder sister, is less attractive to the vulgar worshipper in that she is discernible by the eye of faith alone. The statuesque beauty of the one is manifest; but the fairylike features of the other and her fluent form are veiled. But mathematics has long walked by the evidence of things not seen in the world of atoms (the methods whereof, it may incidentally be remarked, statistical and rough, may illustrate the possibility of social mathematics). The invisible energy of electricity is grasped by the marvellous methods of Lagrange; the invisible energy of pleasure may admit of a similar handling.”

The concept of pleasure, according to Edgeworth, as summarized by English chemical physicist Philip Ball (2004), was the force that his hedonistic ‘charioteers’, the individual agents of society who interact like so many atoms in the void, according to which the view the glimpsed whereby economies treat people like “multiety of atoms which constitute the foundations and uniformity of physics.” [9]
Essay on Social Mechanics (1967)
Polish sociologist Leon Winiarski's 1898 Essay on Social Mechanics, the first textbook on social mechanics. [7]

In 1894, Polish sociologist Leon Winiarski was, it seems, the first to teach a college course in "social mechanics", at the University of Geneva, which he summarized as the study and modeling of movements of people in social systems through the mechanics of Italian mathematician Joseph Lagrange and the thermodynamics of German physicist Rudolf Clausius. [1] The following is a popular excerpt from Winiarski’s presentation on social mechanics at Fourth International Congress of Sociology of 1900: [1]

“We arrived, he said, to design the equilibrium theory can be extended economic phenomena at all social phenomena: political, legal, moral, aesthetic, religious and scientific. Extending the results obtained by pure economics to social science, we have come to the realization that the fundamental equations of Walras can be deduced from the general equations of motion of Lagrange and we have shown analytically how this deduction may be made. Having provided the equations of the social balance, we established the foundations of the social mechanics, in its static part, on the principle of Lagrange, that of minimum effort and maximum energy, that is to say on the principle that forms the basis of cosmic mechanics. Turning to the dynamic part of the problem, we gave a definition of social energy and biological energy. This brings us to the principles of thermodynamics, the third, that of Clausius, also explains the gradual spiritualization any aggregate and closed down its potential. This dissipation of entropy that occurs in the social world, as in the physical world. Finally, we showed how the principle of least effort and accelerating the speed differentiation and explains the gradual integration of social aggregates by increasing their perfect adaptation to natural and artificial.”

Most of this theory was presented in Winiarski's popular "Essay on Social Mechanics" and book to follow.

In 1907, American sociologist Lester Ward, the so-called "father of American sociology", in his Pure Sociology, credited Winiarski as being the initiator of the use of thermodynamics in social mechanics, as follows: [10]

“There is therefore a true science of social mechanics, and as social energy is only a special mode of manifestation of the universal energy, social mechanics is only a kind of mechanics which deals with this form of energy. The fundamental classification of mechanics, as we saw, is into statics and dynamics, and social statics and social dynamics are as legitimate branches of mechanics as are hydrostatics and hydrodynamics, the principles of which are commonly included in text-books of mechanics. In fact, Winiarsky has made a direct application of thermodynamics to social mechanics as essential to its full treatment. I shall deal with social statics and social dynamics in that order, which is the same as that in which mechanics is always treated, the advantage of which is even greater here than in other departments, as will be clearly apparent as we proceed.”

Ward also devotes an entire section to ‘social energy’ discussing the conservation of energy and how energy and force are nearly equivalent, citing the work of James Joule and Hermann Helmholtz, also discussing ideas on ‘social forces’.
Mechanistic school (1928)Pitirim Sorokin ns
Russian-born American sociologist Pitirim Sorokin's 1928 classification of the first main branch (of eleven) of "contemporary sociology", that of the “mechanistic school of social thermodynamics”, all based on the thermodynamics of Rudolf Clausius, with social mechanics listed as the first main branch. [4]

Sorokin | Mechanistic school
In 1928, Russian-born American sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, in his Contemporary Sociological Theories, devotes his opening chapter "The Mechanistic School", the first sixty-pages, to first summarize what he calls the "mechanistic school of social thermodynamics", namely those who have used a human molecule or social atom views, steeped in social mechanism and thermodynamics-based views, including: Leon Winiarski, Vilfredo Pareto, Eugene Roberty, Henry Carey, and Wilhelm Ostwald, to conclude and argue, in the end, that the theories developed by this school are all "pseudo-sciences" and mere "superficial analogies". Sorokin divides the mechanistic school of sociology into about four main principle branches as follows: [4]

(a) Social mechanics
Representatives: Antonio Portuondo, Spiru Haret, Alfred Lotka
(b) Social physics
Representatives: Henry Carey
(c) Social energetics (or social thermodynamics)
Representatives: Ernest Solvay, W. Bechtereff, Wilhelm Ostwald, Thomas Carver, and Leon Winiarski
(d) Mathematical sociology
Representatives: Vilfredo Pareto and F. Carli

This classification scheme of Sorokin has frequently been mentioned or utilized as a basic outline of sociology. [5] Sorokin, being the founder of Harvard University's sociology department, supposedly taught this subject at Harvard.

In 1929, American sociologist Howard W. Odum, citing Sorokin (1928), considered Winiarski the leader of the mechanistic school of sociology describing him as follows: [6]

Winiarski’s mechanistic interpretation posits society as a system of points, individuals in perpetual movement, with attraction as the primary cause of movement. This attraction is like chemical affinity which mechanical bases but with psychic force not present in the physical world, which, however, in turn is nothing more than a form of physico-chemical energy which in turn, in the form of life, may be transferred from potential to kinetic energy, and this transformation is primarily through the processes of alimentation and reproduction. Human masses transmute energies of hunger and sex into various social, economic, aesthetic or intellectual forms, the transformation proceeding entirely according to the laws of thermodynamics. Society and human beings will ultimately reach an equilibrium in some way as the physical world has reached its equilibrium and social science must devise objective units of studying this energistic system of humans in relation to their world.”

Odum also classified Eugene Roberty in this "mechanistic theory" group approach to sociology.
Princeton university (social physics)John Q. Stewart ns
From circa 1945 to 1955, at the Princeton University physics department, American astrophysicist and engineer John Q. Stewart, ran a Rockefeller Foundation grant-funded social physics/social mechanics applied research group. [14]

Stewart | Grant-funded university social physics
See main: Princeton University Department of Social Physics
From circa 1945 to 1955, at the Princeton University, American astrophysicist John Q. Stewart, with grant funding from the Rockerfeller Foundation, headed a project on the development of social physics or social mechanics, depending on namesake, at the University of Princeton. In circa 1953, for example, he presented a paper before the American Physical Society, wherein he discussed how three of the first three of the main six main forms of physical energy (kinetic, elastic, gravitational, thermal, electromagnetic, and chemical), namely: kinetic, elastic, and gravitational have been showing up in the form of a subject classified as “social mechanics”, which is said to deal with time, space, and mass of material as social controls, albeit classified as a “rather neglected” branch of general social study. [13] In 1957, American science journalist John Lear, in his New Scientist newsletter “The Laws of Social Relationship”, summarized Stewart's work as follows: [14]

“With the help of a small grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, a handful of scholars at Princeton University have been working for some time past in what most people would call a new science: social physics. As the name implies, this science is based on the proposition that physical laws governing the behavior of atoms and planets are applicable as well to social relationships among humans. Distance and time spate one mass of people (a city, say, or a nation) from another and affect interactions accordingly: the number of people and their psychological temper and desire also help to decide what turns are taken in world’s affiars. Stewart, associate professor of astronomical physics at Princeton, equates these half dozen social quantities with six fundamental categories of physical science—distance, time, mass, number of molecules, temperature, and electric charge. And he says that it is most unfortunate that the parallels are ignored by politicians and statesmen, for the laws of science have a way of making themselves felt even when the existence is disputed. “Statesmen of this and other nations … have embarked upon grandiose undertakings where on physical grounds failure was predictable,” Stewart observes, “and … failure meant that … people perished in vain.”

In 1948, Stewart penned the textbook Demographic Gravitation: Evidence and Application, wherein he incorporated his view that the laws of physics should have applicability to the social sciences, in which he introduced the concept of “potentials of population”. [15] Stewart, as discussed above, credits American presidents and fellow Princetonian James Madison and Woodrow Wilson as being early social physics/social mechanics thinkers.

Dawson | Corpse theories
In 1957, British cultural historian Christopher Dawson summarized social mechanics, along with social physics, and social energetics, as one of the defunct corpses of sociology’s past: [11]

“From the beginning sociology has been haunted by the dream of explaining social phenomena by the mathematical and quantitative methods of the physical sciences and thus creating a science of society which will be completely mechanistic and determinist. The path of sociology is strewn with the corpses of defunct systems of “social physics,” “social energetics,” and “social mechanics,” and their failure does little to discourage fresh adventures. Such systems have little use for history or for social reality; they content themselves with generalizations that have significance and with “laws” which are nothing but false analogies … nothing but an apparatus for the transformation of solar energy into human energy (Carver and Ostwald), while Winiarsky argued that social change proceeds according to the laws of thermodynamics. Such extravagances explain the distrust shown towards sociology by historians, for the experience of the complexities of the complex reality of the social process makes them naturally hostile to the crude simplicity of pseudoscientific generalizations.”

One line of reasoning as to why social mechanics fell off into the 1950s, comes from American sociologist Barbara Heyl, and her investigation into the 1930s to early 1940s Harvard Pareto circle, according to which she concludes that these types of physical-chemical-materialistic mechanical sociologies fell off as a result of the effect of WWII, during the course of which America became allies with Russia, and a switch of direction to the field of study historical materialism of Karl Marx resulted. [16]

On the positive end, Dawson seems to be acutely unaware of the deep work of American historian Henry Adams, who was not at all distrustful of such applications in sociology—in fact, Adams, in a 1909 letter to English lawyer Charles Gaskell, famously said he would “travel a few thousand-million miles to discuss with [William Thomson] the thermodynamics of socialistic society.” [12]

Stark | Extreme mechanicism
In 1962, Austrian macroeconomist turned sociologist Werner Stark, his 1962 The Fundamental Forms of Social Thought, in which he devoted two chapters to a "angry" critique of what he refers to as the "extreme mechanicism" school of sociology, where people are treated as particles (see: human particle) and or molecules (see: human molecule) whose behaviors are explained through mechanism and physical science principles. [2] The gist of Stark's extreme mechanism sociology critique is summarized well by a recent 1993 retrospect synopsis by American sociologist Leon Warshay: [3]

“Some modes of mechanism (Chapter 10), such as Simmel’s, are tolerated; others, such as Lundberg’s, are not. Simmel is deemed a moderate even though he leans toward nominalism, just as Durkheim is favorably contrasted with Simmel as a moderate who leans toward realism. Lundberg is criticized for aping physics—for using motion, energy, and force as social mechanism and defining societal groups as ‘electron-proton configurations’—thereby being enslaved by ‘mechanistic modes of thought’ (pgs. 153-54).

The work of Henry Charles Carey (which is discussed in Chapters 10 and 11) and that of S.C. Haret is characterized as extreme mechanicism. Both apply physical principles to society (e.g. force, attraction, motion, constrains, space, equilibrium, energy, and electricity) and both see individuals in mechanistic-atomistic terms (e.g. as particles and or molecules) as inert elements caused from without. Stark criticizes extreme mechanicism for its inability to deal with social fact (pg. 163) and as inclined to be a- or anti-historical (pg. 159).

Some ‘empiricism’ is evident here in Stark’s criticisms of the various types of mechanicism he posits. His argument is an angry one: that Carey, Pareto, and Lundberg have all ‘imported’ models from elsewhere (e.g. from physics and astronomy), and have ‘imposed’ them on social phenomena (which Stark knows to have an idealistic character) under a ‘unity of nature’ positivist ideal, which is really a sociology unified under physics (pg. 155).”

In short, Stark aims to espouse extreme theories of social mechanism in which the individual is discussed in guise of the physicalist terms of atoms and molecules, which Stark considers a ‘foreign substance’. The following is Stark's view on the theories of Italian engineer Vilfredo Pareto: “Pareto’s positive mechanism is excoriated for imposing a molecular model upon social life in the name of an objective science.” [3] In the end, however, although critical of these extreme mechanism views, Stark comments that these views will be needed in some way in a modern sociology.

Into the 1970s and thereafter sociological writings on the great century-long cultivated "social mechanics" school, as outlined above, seem to have disappeared? A possible explanation for this disappearance may have to do with the widening of the knowledge blanket fanning effect (e.g. last person to know everything), particularly with the growth in equation complexity of chemistry, physics, and thermodynamics, chemical thermodynamics and or chemical engineering thermodynamics, in particular, which began to make and cultivate deep roots beginning in the 1950s, after which it became increasingly more difficult for one to master two fields, such as sociology and chemical engineering, economics and physics, or anthropology and chemistry, as would be needed to keep pace with modern science, as could more easily be done in the past, particularly in the 19th century heyday of social mechanics.

Some discussion on an attempt at a modern-day revival of the social mechanics school, framed in modern physical science and chemical thermodynamic terms, can be found on the Hmolpedia two cultures department page, which American electrochemical engineer Libb Thims is working to bring to fruition, similar to Winiarski's 1894-1900 effort, at a leading American university, ranked high in their chemical engineering graduate school department.

1. (a) Leon Winiarski, note the social mechanics, presented in 1900 at Fourth International Congress of Sociology (Annales di: International Institute of Sociology, Volume VII, pages 229 and following).
(b) Worms, Rene. (1904). Philosophie des Scienciences Sociales: Methode des Sciences Sociales (pgs. 12-13). V. Giard & E. Brière.
2. Stark, Werner. (1962). The Fundamental Forms of Social Thought. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
3. Warshay, Leon H. (1993). “The Social Theory of a Humane Organicist: On Werner Stark as Intellectual Detective and Moralist”, in: In Search of Community: Essays in Memory of Werner Stark (1909-1985) (pgs. 45-55). Fordham.
4. Sorokin, Pitirim. (1928). Contemporary Sociological Theories (thermodynamics, pgs. 25-27; human molecules, pg. 46-47). Harper & Brothers.
5. (a) Levine, Donald N. (1995). Visions of Sociological Tradition (mechanistic school, pg. 23). University of Chicago Press.
(b) Jha, Jainendra K. (2001). Encyclopedia of Teaching Sociology (mechanistic school of sociologists, pg. 205). Anmol Publications.
6. Odum, Howard W. and Josher, Katherine C. (1929). An Introduction to Social Research (pg. 109). H.Holt and Co.
7. Winiarski, Leon. (1967). Essais Sur la Mecanique Sociale: Textes reunis et presents par Giovanni Busino (Essay on Social Mechanics: Collected Works presented by Giovanni Busino) (Thermodynamique, 13+ pages; entropy integrals, pg. 257). Librairie Droz.
8. Edgeworth, Francis Y. (1881). Mathematical Psychics: an Essay on the Application of Mathematics to the Moral Sciences (social mechanics, pgs. 12-13). C.K. Paul.
9. Ball, Philip. (2004). Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another (social mechanics, pg. 205). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
10. Ward, Lester F. (1907). Pure Sociology: a Treatise on the Origin and Spontaneous Development of Society (thermodynamics, pgs. 97, 168). MacMillan.
11. (a) Dawson, Christopher. (1957). Dynamics of World History (pg. 21). Publisher.
(b) Zahn, Gordan C. (1958). Readings in Sociology (pg. 11). Newman Press.
(c) Sociology (2006) –
12. (a) Adams, Henry. (1909). “Letter to Charles Milnes Gaskell”, 23 Avenue de Bois de Boulogne, May 02.
(b) Adams, Henry, Samuels, Ernest. (1992). Henry Adams, Selected Letters (thermodynamics, pgs. 438, 466, 517). Harvard University Press.
13. (a) Author. (1953). “Article” (pg. 8). Main Currents in Modern Thought, Volume 10. Center for Integrated Education.
(b) Lear, John. (1957). “American Newsltter: The Laws of Social Relationship”, New Scientist, Jan 31.
14. (a) Lear, John. (1957). “American Newsltter: The Laws of Social Relationship”, New Scientist, Jan 31.
(b) James Madison – Wikipedia.
(c) Woodrow Wilson – Wikipedia.
15. (a) Stewart, John Q. (1948). Demographic Gravitation: Evidence and Application. Beacon House.
(b) Mumford, George S. (2007). “John Quincy Stewart”, in: Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers (editors: Hockey, Thomas, et. al.) (pg. 1088). Springer.
16. Heyl, Barbara. (1968). “The Harvard ‘Pareto Circle’.” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 4:316-34; in: Talcott Parsons: Critical Assessments, Volume 1 (editor: Peter Hamilton) (§2, pgs. 29-49). Taylor & Francis.
17. Sacher, Eduard. (1881). Grundzüge einer Mechanik der Gesellschaft, Theil I (Outlines of a Mechanics of Society, Part I) (Ѻ) (kinetic energy, pg. 8). Jena: Gustav Fischer.

Further reading
● Buck, Peter. (1981). “From Celestial Mechanics to Social Physics: Discontinuity in the Development of Sciences in the Early Nineteenth Century” (abs), in: Epistemological and Social Problems of the Sciences in the Early Nineteenth Century (editors: H.N.. Jahnke and M. Otte) (pgs. 19-33). D. Reidel Publishing Co.
● Pacheco, Jose M. (2008). “Does More Abstraction Imply Better Understanding: Ampuntes de Mecanica Social by Antonio Porunondo). Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Preprint 351.

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