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The Eighth Day

The Eighth Day
Social Evolution as the Self-Organization of Energy

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

January 1988
This is a print-on-demand title. Expedited shipping is not available.
312 pages | 6 x 9 | 10 figures, 4 tables |

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.

  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • 1. Preliminaries
    • Principles and Explanations
    • Anthropological Antecedents
    • Monism and Materialism
    • Studies of Energy and Society
  • 2. Energy Process
    • Energy Forms
    • Equilibrium
    • 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
    • Introduction
    • Equilibrium Bases of Self-Organization
    • Autopoiesis
    • Perturbations
    • Self-Triggering
    • 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
    • Notes
  • 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
    • Notes
  • 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
    • Notes
  • Postscript: Development and Contemporary Social Evolution
  • References
  • Index

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