As an example, some part of society can progress only so much before such progress stagnates and it requires other parts of society to progress.

Prior Research

No matter how many different ways I search for it online, I can not find this concept I read in some article two years ago. Over time, I inquired about it amongst knowledgeable (in different subjects) friends and acquaintances of mine in real life. After asking another friend recently and having a tangential discussion, I was inspired to ask people online (and found this spectacular site!).

Off the top of my head as a weird analogy, the concept(s) I am inquiring for is essentially an abstract version of Liebig's Law of the Minimum ("growth is dictated not by total resources available, but by the scarcest resource", "yield is proportional to the amount of the most limiting nutrient, whichever nutrient it may be.").

Semi-relevant concepts/answers I have received or found:

  • Law of Diminishing Returns: "states that, at some point, adding an additional factor of production results in smaller increases in output."
  • Post Structuralism: which argues that all knowledge is referential, because everything is known in reference to some other knowledge, not measured against a universal "truth".
  • Commodification (of goods): the transformation of various things into objects of trade.
  • Symbiosis: the biological term describing how two, independent, organisms benefit mutually from shared existence (there are likely many more ecological concepts potentially usable as analogies..)
  • Effects of generalized symbolic media of exchange on institutional domains: Essentially, as described in this paper, different institutional domains (religion, family, economy etc.) operate using different kinds of "generalized symbolic media." These media are whatever is the central focus of an institution, so money for the economy, power for politics, love for family, etc. These different media vary in how much they influence the structure and ideology of other institutional domains. The more interdependent different institutional domains are, then the more we should expect one to influence the other.
  • Lastly, apparently, how some of Marxist and Communist theory is actually based on what I inquire about??


In the weird analogy provided above, "growth" is described. However more fitting, and more specific, for this question would be "progress". Following this, it makes slightly more sense that by "parts of society" I am asking for abstract domains such as political, economic, culture, etc. Most importantly, I am asking for various theories or concepts, not necessarily anecdotal or historical examples. However, any similar concepts even partially within the confines of this question would be greatly appreciated!

[Note: I should recognize it took quite a bit of formulating (with prompting by fellow users) for a better question. Graciously, I now understand]

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    To be answerable, this question would need to elaborate on precisely what is meant by "growth" and "different parts of society". – Brian Z Apr 26 '20 at 12:57
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    @BrianZ Requiring precise definitions of abstract terms is virtually impossible, and would disallow all abstract questions. Perhaps I'm misreading you, and you're asking for specific examples? – agc Apr 26 '20 at 15:22
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    "Growth" can mean wildly different things. Economic growth? Population growth? Technological advancement? Similar for "part of society". Economic sectors? Geographical regions? Abstract domains (political vs. economic vs. cultural)? If you don't narrow this down considerably, the possible interpretations are virtually endless. – Brian Z Apr 26 '20 at 16:02
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    @BrianZ, Each item in that list of "wildly" different things seems germane to the Q.'s abstraction. Flexibility of application is the central value of abstraction. It's as though a question about animals in general were asked, and the question was closed because of demands to know which animals. – agc Apr 27 '20 at 7:39
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    Not worthy of an actual answer, but this book is a good start: Thomas Piketty: capital in the 21st century. It is a historical economic analysis that e.g. look at how collages in the US benefit from student loans and many other good examples – Thomas Koelle Apr 28 '20 at 7:28

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