An extended theory of the social field : with application to the behavior of nations

Williamson, Paul Robert
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The fundamental question is probed, "To what extent can aspects of social behavior be put in correspondence with concepts of natural phenomena such that mechanical laws become statements of social regularities?" This question is occasioned by the premise that there is a fundamental similarity between the ideas of "social field theory" and the mechanical ideas of physics. In his field theory, Quincy Wright suggested that various characteristics of national actors determine their behavior and, that these characteristics constitute a set of coordinates in a social space (or "field"), for each actor; behavior was thus regarded as a function of the coordinates of the actor in the space. Wright's concept is compared to a physical analogy: actors are like material objects located in a space; various quantitative attributes of actors supply the spatial coordinates of the objects. The suggestion, by R. J. Rummel, that the relative configuration of social actors in the space gives rise to forces which determine their mutual behavior, resembles the physical idea that the relative configuration of charged particles determines the electromagnetic. field. A specialization of the above is Rummel's idea that the mutual behavior of two actors is the result of forces which are a function of their mutual distance in social space. A straightforward extension of this is suggested: that the spatial motion of social actors also gives rise to forces which determine behavior. This "extended" social force is additionally analogous to the electrodynamic force of classical physics in that both are velocity as well as position dependent. The present study chooses to juxtapose this particular combination of social metaphor and physical model -- to regard social force as like electrodynamic force. The discipline of classical physics provides a formalism treating the idea of forces acting on objects in a space, a part of which is adapted and reinterpreted relative to the above social field concepts. The concepts, themselves, serve as heuristic for the substantive content of this adaptation. A modification of the physical concept of the vector components of electrodynamic force is interpreted as the series of directed behaviors from a given actor nation to various object nations. Certain alternate empirical interpretations of the resulting formalism imply differing but related predictions of regularities in the behavior of nations. In the first interpretation, the attributes of nations are regarded geometrically as components of their spatial velocity. Given this, the formalism is shown to contain the Rummel equations, connecting directed behavior to national attribute differences. The appropriate geometry of social space is considered. It is shown that Rummel's equations are equally valid for Euclidean and certain non- Euclidean spaces. The second interpretation considers a different empirical meaning to the velocities of nations. Spatial motion is explicitly defined as a construct based on patterns of over-time covariation among indices of national attributes and behavior. A novel concept of "social time" is introduced, based on over-time variation of behavior. With these definitions the geometry of social space is shown to be of the "Minkowski" (non-Euclidean) type. A modified behavior law is derived, connecting over-time with cross-sectional patterns of behavior and implying a meaningful generalization of the "feudal" interaction model of Johan Galtung's structural theory of imperialism. Given some prior empirical findings and certain reasonable conjectures about the international system, it is then shown that the modified behavior law directly implies the feudal model. Certain additional lines of inquiry which might broaden the scope of the theory are suggested.
Bibliography: leaves 110-112.
ix, 112 leaves ill
International relations -- Mathematical models
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