Dusk Somewhere

Notes on *Social Ecology* (1)

Posted at — Jan 18, 2016 by Izzy Meckler

The ideas, knowledge, beliefs, laws and regulations, etc. contained in a culture would be the genetic instructions ordering the use of exosomatic energy. – p. 262

This is a good point and a nice way of characterizing the socio-technological layer of the world: it is the part of the human world concerned with mediation of energy through non-bodily structures.

Of course this layer interacts with the biological layer on large time scales.

Human societies give priority to performing two basic tasks: on one side, producing goods and services and distributing them among its individual members, and on the other side, reproducing the conditions making production possible in order to gain stability through time. (267)

A definition of social metabolism:

social metabolism pertains to the flow of energy, materials and information that are exchanged by a human society with its environment for forming, maintaining, and reconstructing the dissipative structures allowing it to keep as far away as possible from the state of equilibrium. In other words, all societies generate order through the importation of energy and materials from the physical environment, and the exportation to the environment of dissipated heat and wastes. We call the organization of this stable exchange of energy, materials, and information social metabolism. (271)

Culture, our lives, the directly perceived part of the world, is the interface between the biological and psychological existence of the human being and the non-human organism of Capital. Capital exists through us.

societies can only sustain high levels of total entropy if large amounts of energy and materials are appropriated from their domestic environment… This asymmetric relation between society and the environment is also equivalent in differentials of complexity between the environment and the system. Thus, the system is always less complex than its surroundings. (275)

the creation of internal order by a human group can have consequences on the environment of the society as a whole. An example makes this fact more graphical: in feudal or tributary societies based on organic metabolism, the increase in rent forced peasants to offer a portion of their crop, or other natural resource, in detrimental (sic) of the amount needed for self-consumption, and could push them to clear new plots, fish or hunt more individuals, and extract or gather a higher volume of products. (277)