The Eighth Day

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The Eighth Day

Social Evolution as the Self-Organization of Energy

By Richard Newbold Adams

Illustrated by John Biggers

This book argues that the energy process provides a basis for explaining, comparing, and measuring complex social evolution.



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6 x 9 | 312 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-72061-9

Can human social evolution be described in terms common to other sciences, most specifically, as an energy process? The Eighth Day reflects a conviction that the human trajectory, for all its uniqueness and indeterminism, will never be satisfactorily understood until it is framed in dynamics that are common to all of nature. The problem in doing this, however, lies in ourselves. The major social theories have failed to treat human social evolution as a component of broader natural processes.

The Eighth Day argues that the energy process provides a basis for explaining, comparing, and measuring complex social evolution. Using traditional ecological energy flow studies as background, society is conceived as a self-organization of energy. This perspective enables Adams to analyze society in term of the natural selection of self-organizing energy forms and the trigger processes basic to it. Domestication, civilization, socioeconomic development, and the regulation of contemporary industrial nation-states serve to illustrate the approach. A principal aim is to explore the limitation that energy process imposes on human social evolution as well as to clarify the alternatives that it allows.

Richly informed by contemporary anthropological historicism, sociobiology, and Marxism, The Eighth Day avoids simple reductionism and denies facile ideological categorization. Adams builds on work in nonequilibrium thermodynamics and theoretical biology and brings three decades of his own work to an analysis of human society that demands an extreme materialism in which human thought and action find a central place.

1. Preliminaries
    Principles and Explanations
    Anthropological Antecedents
    Monism and Materialism
    Studies of Energy and Society
2. Energy Process
    Energy Forms
    Equilibrium and Dissipative Structures
    Stability and Steady States
    Appendix: Note on Odum’s “Energy Quality”
3. Energy Dynamics
    The Laws of Thermodynamics
    Lotka’s Principle
    Minimum Dissipation Principle
    Trigger-Flow Mechanisms and Principles
4. Self-Organization
    Equilibrium Bases of Self-Organization
    Appendix: Order and Functional Organization
5. Culture
    Mental Self-Organization
    Informational Dynamics
    Cultural Process
    Appendix: Energy and Values
6. Domestication
    Domestication? Why Bother?
    Ecological and Human Controls
    Human Dominance, Culture, and Power
    Indigenous California Society
    The Emergence of Social Hierarchies
    Political and Ideological Implications
7. Natural Selection
    The Broader Issue
    In Equilibrium Structures
    Self-Organization of Dissipative Structures
    Selection and Epistemology
8. Boundary Dynamics
    Social Boundaries
    Energetic Boundaries
    Environments and Closure
9. Civilization
    The Meaning of “Civilization”
    Civilization as a Trigger
    The Origins and Future of Civilization
10. Humanities
    The Classics
    Free-Floating Triggers
11. Expansion In Social Hierarchy: A Model
    Social Survival Vehicles and Coaxal Structures
    Novel and Secondary Constructions
    The Emergence of Hierarchy: Work and Regulation
12. Energy and Industrialization
    Modeling Industrialization Expansion
    The Energy Sector Model
    Interactive Changes among Sectors
    Expansion of the Regulatory Sector
    Regulation in Subnational Units
Postscript: Development and Contemporary Social Evolution

Richard Newbold Adams is Rapoport Centennial Professor Emeritus of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin.