A Physics for Studies of Civilization

  • Arthur S. Iberall
Part of the Life Science Monographs book series (LSMO)


This chapter applies the general physical outlook described in Chapters 24 and 27 to human social systems. Social systems, like other complex systems, are characterized by conservations that determine their dynamics over a wide range of time scales. In addition to the usual physical driving forces, human social systems also introduce a number of distinct factors, such as epigenetic memory storage, transmission of information (e.g., tool use, technology), and transfer of social values. They also introduce two new conservations: (1) reproduction of number and (2) value-in-trade. These new factors are given an extended physical interpretation.

The author uses this extension of physics to explain the emergence of settled civilizations, which is seen by him as a stability transition similar to that of matter condensation. Following a first condensation to fixed settlements, a second transition to urban civilization occurs—through the rise of trade, which he interprets as the onset of a macroscopic convection process. Trade and war emerge as the dominant large-scale processes in the ecumene of civilizations. —The Editor


Social Process Royal Jelly Social Field Maximum Life Span Physical View 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arthur S. Iberall
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Oral BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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