Rousseau's law

Jonathan Furner jfurner at UCLA.EDU
Fri Feb 22 14:16:25 EST 2002

Dear SIGMETRICS list members:

I wonder if one of you might be able to help me out with a small
bibliographical question, about "Rousseau's law."

In his article "American Philosophy Today" (Review of Metaphysics 46,
no. 4, June 1993), Rescher mentions in a footnote "the principle
known in the social sciences as Rousseau's Law, which maintains that
in a population of size n the number of high-visibility members
stands as [the square root of n]." Rescher cites another work of his
own, Scientific Progress (1978), which is also cited by Diodato in
his Dictionary of Bibliometrics (1994): "[The formula stating that]
the volume of really 'important' production stands as the square root
of the total production ... is in fact a rather well known formula in
the study of elites ... Such a relationship was initially mooted by
Jean Jacques Rousseau ..." Diodato also cites Zipf's Human Behavior
and the Principle of Least Effort (1949): "This statement that is so
frequently imputed to J. J. Rousseau seems to evade specific
reference although its sense is apparent in his Contrat Social."

Of course, the relationship between the size of a population and its
square root is remarked upon by Price in Little Science, Big Science
(1963). Price does not mention Rousseau; yet, in an article in IP&M,
Nicholls (1988) notes that Price's law has its roots in Rousseau's
law, which had "long been known in the social sciences."

My (two-part) question is: Who was responsible for the first
imputation of Rousseau's law to Rousseau? What evidence is there for
believing that Rousseau was indeed responsible for expressing
Rousseau's law?


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