Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1360650
Toward a formal theory
of social change
School of Business Information, Liverpool John Moores University,
Optical Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA, and
Lentz Foundation, Hest Bank, Lancaster, UK
– This paper aims to initiate a new, formal theory of sociocultural physics.
– Its intended scope is limited to predicting either long-term,
large-scale or short-term, small-scale sociocultural events. The theory that the authors develop, called
sociohistory, links three independent but relatable approaches: part of Sorokin’s epistemological
theory of sociocultural dynamics, Frieden’s epistemological theory of extreme physical information
(EPI), and Yolles’s social viable systems (SVS) theory.
– Although not all of Sorokin’s ideas are universally accepted, a subset of them is found to
be extremely useful for describing the conceptual context of complex systems. This includes how
sociocultural processes link closely into political processes.
– The theory that develops helps explain how opposing,
cultural enantiomers or
forces (represented, for instance, by the polar mindsets represented in
Islamic fundamentalism and global enterprise) can result in violent con±ict, or in either viable or
non-viable social communities. The informations
of EPI theory are regarded, respectively, as
sensate and ideational enantiomers.
– While the resulting sociocultural physics is in its infancy, an illustrative
application to the developmental dynamics of post-colonial Iran demonstrates its potential utility.
Cybernetics, Physics, Social structure
In this section, we shall posit some of the notions that are essential to underpin any
attempt to create a formal theory of socioculture that some people may refer to as
sociocultural physics. The problem with this title is that physics is a logical and
phenomenal/material exploration, and does not incorporate notions of consciousness.
In exploring socioculture we shall explore the background ideas that facilitate
sociocultural physics, and then move onto notions of sociohistory and psychohistory
that will refer to our approach. We shall then look at some of the ideas that are relevant
Vol. 37 No. 7, 2008