Leon Winiarski

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In existographies, Leon Winiarski (90-40 BE) (1865-1915 ACM) (IQ:185|#51) (ID:3.70|50) (RGM:712|1,350+) (SN:4) (TR:176) (LH:10) (TL:187) was a Polish mathematical physics based sociopolitical economist, a characterized "disciple of Walrus and Pareto" (Busino, 1967), noted for []


In 1894 to 1990, Winiarski penned a series of essays on "social mechanics", wherein he seems to have been one of the first to apply thermodynamics to sociology and economics, in a mechanistic way.[1]

Pareto | Fallout

In c.1897, Winiarski and Vilfredo Pareto, former PhD advisor, had a great falling out. A chair of “political economy” had opened at the University of Geneva, the former chair holder being an political economist name Lastrade, a chair which Winiarski desired, and wrote Pareto to give the position to him, but Pareto stated that he had already given the position to Maffeo Pantaleoni, and had, supposedly, also told Adrien Naville, the dean of the Geneva faculty, that Winiarski was not a good choice, as he was a "militant economist" (and a socialist), or something to this effect; after which personal communications in their circle became acerbic; for example:

Winiarski, apart from a few small, insignificant articles that I haven't read, wrote only his doctoral thesis on Russian finances (it is I who gave him the doctor’s exam). Don't waste time reading this foolery. He thinks he knows mathematics, but in reality he does little or nothing. He might try to make war on you in this area, but if you are only interested in mathematics little bit, you put extras in a club and you will shake out his fleas. He is a poor man, for which I tried to make him gain something and who then praised me excessively. You know that dogs take the bone and bite you. You have to laugh about it and not worry about it. If he seeks to bite you, in Geneva, you will kick it out.”
— Vilfredo Pareto (1897), “Letters to Maffeo Pantaleoni”, Mar 21 and Mar 30; cited by Giovanni Busino (1967) in Essay on Social Mechanics (§:Preface, pg. xiii)
Winiarski is a socialist and in addition ignorant.”
— Vilfredo Pareto (1897), “Letters to Maffeo Pantaleoni”; cited by Giovanni Busino (1967) in Essay on Social Mechanics (§:Preface, pg. xiii) [2]

Note that in spite of all this protestation, the Geneva faculty found itself without an economics professor, and Dean Naville was forced to give the chair temporarily to Winiarski, but with the frank warning that this was only temporary.

It is ironic that Pareto, the “great connoisseur of ideologies”, as Giovanni Busino (1967) puts it, is “never able to rationally explain his personal gripes with Winiarski”. Busino cites the following as evidence to this:

“We hardly understand Winiarski. If the latter obtains a certain reputation, he owes it to you who translate and make a readable what he writes. The Winiarski system is very simple. It is based on what its readers do not know in the field of thermodynamics, of which he, moreover, has only a few rare acquaintances and he throws at them terms of the science with which he expresses things known to all. I know what entropy is in thermodynamics, but I don't know what Winiarski’s ‘social entropy’ is, and I do not succeed in any understanding to know what he means by this? The principle least effort is quite old, what is new about Winiarski are only the pedantic terms by which he states it. He discovers things already said and repeats them. The little truth that there can be in this concept has already been discussed at length by Spencer and Molinari.”
— Vilfredo Pareto (1900), “Letters to Dalla Volta”, Nov 8; cited by Giovanni Busino (1967) in Essay on Social Mechanics (§:Preface, pgs. xiv-xv)

Pareto goes on to assert the notion that Winiarski "stole" the idea of applying the equations of Lagrange and using them for the equations of economy:

Winiarski got it from me, since he took my class and heard me explain this concept between the formula of pure economy and the formula of the equation of Lagrange. I do not correct this assertion, because, firstly, these priority issues concern me little ; third, the merit of having seen that the equations of the economy and those of Lagrange are identical is quite thin. It is not worth pursuing someone who steals five-cents from me; third, I don't have time to lose with Winiarski. .”
— Vilfredo Pareto (1900), “Letters to Dalla Volta”, Nov 8; cited by Giovanni Busino (1967) in Essay on Social Mechanics (§:Preface, pg. xv)

Walras | Patron

Leon Walras, throughout Winiarski’s fallout with Pareto, remained in steadfast support of Winiarski, particularly in his efforts to obtain university chairs in political economics and or social science; for example:

“Winiarski is perfectly aware of this science , that it is very new and very difficult. He is a mathematician, which is essential to penetrate it well and to teach it correctly, even giving the mathematical demonstrations. He is fluent in English, German, and Italian which would allow him to analyze by criticizing them, the works of Jevons, Gossen, Menger, Bohm-Bawerk, Clark, Patten, Pareto, Barone, etc., in which science has gradually shaped in such an interesting way.”
— Leon Walras (1901), “Letters to Adrien Naville”, Feb 6; cited by Giovanni Busino (1967) in Essay on Social Mechanics (§:Preface, pg. xiiv)

Unfortunately, however, Adrien Naville, the dean of the Geneva faculty, shared Pareto’s antipathy towards Winiarski.


Winiarski, as a young man, grew up in Poland in a Jewish family belong into the petty bourgeois.


In 1884 to 1885, at the University of Warsaw, Winiarski studied law. After spending a year in Paris in 1888 followed by year in London in 1889, Winiarski completed doctorate of letters, at the University of Lausanne, with a thesis on “Russian finances: from 1867 to 1894”, where Vilfredo Pareto was his rapporteur (PhD advisor) during his defense, during which time he became close to friends with Leon Walras. In Fall 1894, Winiarski was appointed privatdocent in political economy at the faculty of letters and social sciences at the University of Geneva, a position he assumed until 1902.


Quotes | On

The following are quotes on Winiarski:

“A number of eminent mathematicians, among whom the names of Cournot, Gossen, Jevons, and Walras are the most frequently heard, have undoubtedly done much to found pure economics on a mathematical basis. At the present time, while there are many mathematical economists, there seems to be but one mathematical sociologist, viz. Leon Winiarski of the University of Geneva. In quite a formidable series of papers he has endeavored to lay the foundations of the science of social mechanics as a mathematical science. His claim to being the first to do this seems to be just, but his further claim of priority in conceiving such a science cannot be sustained. The special merit of Winiarski's treatment is that it bases the science on the desires and wants of men as the forces with which it deals, and although he scarcely goes beyond the primary impulses of hunger and love, still these are correctly conceived as true natural forces susceptible of the most exact formulation. Moreover, his papers are not overburdened with equations and formulas, and are decidedly readable discussions, abounding in acute observations. They also contain reasonable admissions of the limitations to mathematical treatment.”
Lester Ward (1914), Pure Sociology (pgs. 144-48) [3]
“If we take a closer look at the work of this disciple of Walrus and Pareto, victim of the fact that all his scientific production is still scattered in periodicals that no one reads anymore, we let us note that this was quite different from an inert disciple or a servile repeater. The prestige of school leaders as well as the principle of the vision of the division of labor applied in the scientific field, a principle which has taken the specialization that we have come to lose sight of the contribution of one that does not enter directly into the context of which a single discipline can partly explain the oblivion into which Winiarski fell.”
— Giovanni Busino (1967), Essays on Social Mechanics (§:Preface, pg. ix) [1]
“The acceptance of the theories of Leon Walras is without reservation. the general economic equilibrium not only understood as a balance of singular economic subjects, considered in isolation, but above all as an equilibrium obtained by the whole system not conditioned by particular elements specific to this or that structure so various theory of general equilibrium becomes the core of all Winiarski’s thinking. .”
— Giovanni Busino (1967), Essays on Social Mechanics (§:Preface, pg. xii)
“Having reduced pure sociology to a form of social mechanics and having thus obtained the reciprocal, Winiarski tries to give a more rigorous explanation of the social aggregate by putting at the very base of science the principle of attraction. Society thus becomes an ensemble of points that continually attract or repel and reciprocate almost. The indestructible of matter and energy results from it as a necessary corollary. But within such a model, what pleasure give to the historical variables called intelligence, manifestations of reading, moral religious and legal? Winiarski has no hesitation, all our drive from hunger and love. In this way, even the variables are brought back to the principle of attraction, attraction being exerted fire bodies on other batteries, whether they are animated or not.”
— Giovanni Busino (1967), Essays on Social Mechanics (§:Preface, pg. xvii)
“The circuit is thus closed. The operation that Walrus and first Prado had effected, i.e. the reduction of the economy to a rational mechanics, is applied by Winiarski to sociology.”
— Giovanni Busino (1967), Essays on Social Mechanics (§:Preface, pg. xviii)

Quotes | By

The following are quotes by Winiarski:

“The energy of social transformation is submitted to the same laws as the energy of the universe. These are the laws of thermodynamics. We can thus represent a primitive horde, as a material system in movement, the driving forces that cause the movement being hunger and love or attraction. Similar to how a cannonball meeting an obstacle transforms the energy contained in its mass movement into internal heat, energy of light, electricity, etc., so to do the members of the movement of the crude social mass transform when meeting barriers from the natural surroundings and other tribes, represented by economic, political, legal, moral, aesthetic, religious, and intellectual needs. There is transformation of the energy of the mass social movement in internal energies, psychologies, but there is no gain or loss of energy. Moreover this transformation is continuous across social system. Just as any movement of any mass of the universe is accompanied by production of heat, so to are the masses of biology and society transformed into mental phenomena of different kinds. Here we can apply the first principle of thermodynamics: that of the equivalence (the principle of Mayer).”
— Leon Winiarski (1898), “Social Energy and its Measurements”; in: Essay on Social Mechanics (pgs. pg. 250-51)
“The forces of work, system kinetic energy will be equal to the differences of the potential energies. To ensure the transformation of the active forces of the biological energies, unrealised potential processing takes place, it must be between comprizing breeds in a social aggregate, where there is a difference in potential. All the differences in these potential energies go into energy kinetic—but the total energy remains unchanging during processing; there is only a change in form.”
— Leon Winiarski (c.1898), “Article”

End matter


  1. 1.0 1.1 Winiarski, Leon. (1900). Essays on Social Mechanics (Essais sur la Mecanique Sociale) (Editor: Giovanni Busino; Translator: Libb Thims). Geneva: Droz. 1967.
  2. (a) Winiarski, Leon. (1967). Essays on Social Mechanics (Essais sur la Mecanique Sociale) (Editor: Giovanni Busino; Translator: Libb Thims) (§Preface, pgs. vii-xxvii). Geneva: Droz.
    (b) Renault, Michel. (2000). "Léon Winiarski et la mécanique sociale: un révélateur pour les sciences sociales à l'orée du XXe siècle." Les traditions économiques françaises 1848 (2000): 31-45.
  3. Ward, Lester F. (1907). Pure Sociology (keyword: “Léon Winiarski”, pgs. 145, 166, 388-89, 606). MacMillan.


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