Social Entropy Theory

By Kenneth D. Bailey

Subjects: Sociology
Paperback : 9780791400579, 328 pages, January 1990
Hardcover : 9780791400562, 328 pages, February 1990

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Table of contents

List of Tables

List of Figures


1. Contructing a Theory of Complex Society


The Direct Strategy
Relation to other Formulations


The Relation of SET to Middle-Range and Micro Theory
The Relation of SET to General or Macro Formulations


Plan of the Chapters


2. The Isomorphic Concrete Systems Model


Beyond Functionalism


General Systems Theory


The Challenges
Meeting the Challenges
The Isomorphic Concrete Systems Model


The Two-Level Model
Anomalies in the Two-Level Model


The Three-Level Model


Extensions of the Three-Level Model


Abstracted Versus Concrete Sociological Theory
The Complex Isomorphic Systems Model (X")


Holistic Model Adequacy


3. Social Entropy


The History of Social Equilibrium


Thermodynamic Equilibrium and Entropy
Nonthermodynamic Physical Equilibrium and Entropy
The Spencerian Dilemma
First Principles
Equilibrium between Pareto and Parsons


Moving Equilibrium
Equilibrium as an Analytic Device
Summarizing the Breadth of Parsons' Equilibrium Concept


The History of Social Entropy


Use of Entropy
Statistical Formulations
Entropy in General Systems Theory
Verbal Formulations of Social Entropy
Evaluating the Literature on Social Entropy


4. Macrosociology


Key Societal Variables


Global Properties
Spatial Area (Expansion of Boundaries)
Population Size
Level of Living
Distributional (Analytical) Measurement


Interrelationships among Variables


Global Measurement


Internal Versus External Relationships


Internal Relationships
Open Boundaries




5. The Individual in Complex Society


Sorokin's Ten-Dimensional Structure
The Mutable Distributions
The Immutable Variables
Allocation Theory


Global Constraints
Change in Mutable Distribution Structure
Relevant Theories
Level of Living


Expectations and Goals



6. Organizations


Organizational Formation


Divisive Grouping Processes
Agglomerative Grouping Processes




Boundary Formation
Membership Boundaries


Entropy and Information in Organizations
Multiple Membership
Concluding Remarks


7. The Central Problem of Social Order


Social Order


Two Types of Order
Q- and R- Relationships


The Holistic Model of Social Order


Category Theory
Effect of Symbolic Structure on Action
Why Actions Are Replicated


Order and the Three Level Model


The Synchronic Nature of Markers
Markers and Mutables


Power and Conflict


Expectations and Power
Mutables and Conflict
Immutables and Conflict
Entropy and Inequality


Concluding Remarks


8. Statistical Entropy


Probabilistic Entropy


Number of Categories


Type B Mapping
Type C Mapping
The Marker (X") Level


Sample Size
Sampling Distribution


Relationship of Categorical Entropy to Continuous Variables


Categorical and Continuous Entropy
Continuous Entropy


Measuring Inequality


Categorical Income Data
Measures of Population Diversity
Proportional Reduction in Error


9. Reflections and Hypotheses




Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8




Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8


Concluding Remarks


Author Index
Subject Index


Social Entropy Theory illuminates the fundamental problems of societal analysis with a nonequilibrium approach, a new frame of reference built upon contemporary macrological principles, including general systems theory and information theory. Social entropy theory, using Shannon's H and the entropy concept, avoids the common (and often artificial) separation of theory and method in sociology. The hallmark of the volume is integration, as seen in the author's interdisciplinary discussions of equilibrium, entropy, and homeostasis. Unique features of the book are the introduction of the three-level model of social measurement, the theory of allocation, the concepts of global-mutable-immutable, discussion of order and power, and a large set of testable hypotheses.

Kenneth D. Bailey is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles.


"A powerful and insightful general theory of society which resolves several well-known problems with past efforts. " — Joseph Woelfel, State University of New York, Albany

"While specialized approaches do not have any way to indicate what is not being studied, an integrative approach such as Social Entropy Theory fills the critical role of illuminating gaps and inconsistencies in existing theory because it deals with the entire society, including those parts of it which narrower theories may not have specifically addressed. I think this is an important scholarly contribution. There is nothing else like it, and it deals with a very significant issue. " — James Grier Miller, University of California, San Diego