A Thermodynamic Interpretation of the Progression of Historical Processes


  • Mark Paul Anthony Ciotola




Energy, Power, Dynasties, History, Big History, Complexity, Emergence, Resources, China, Russia


This article examines the long-term rise of human civilization in terms of the emergence of socio-physical dissipative structures, including cities, agricultural systems, infrastructure and relevant economic enterprises. The laws of thermodynamics, the Principle of Least Time, and the phenomena of complexity and emergence are briefly reviewed and accepted as assumptions. The concepts of thermodynamic work, power and efficiency are likewise reviewed. Also examined are the emergence of medium-term dissipative structures, such as the rise and fall of dynasties, resource and economic bubbles in terms of thermodynamic theory. The impact of thermodynamic constraints on the emergence and fall of such structures is examined. Particular attention is paid to the interactions between physical resource use and the social progression of those structures. Areas of applicability to World-Systems is discussed.


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How to Cite

Ciotola, M. P. A. (2023). A Thermodynamic Interpretation of the Progression of Historical Processes. Journal of World-Systems Research, 29(1), 39–70. https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2023.1175



Symposium on Complexity Theory and Physical, Biological, and Sociocultural Evolution