Archive for March 7th, 2016

Order and Value

A piece of machinery that reduces (local) disorder has value. It might be a functional police force, a catallactic economic arrangement, or a sociopolitical mechanism implementing dynamic geography (or Patchwork, 1, 2, 3, 4). Others might be listed. Any complex adaptive system works like this (until it ceases working). Since Schrödinger, it has been taken as an abstract definition of life. In certain strands of philosophy, it has also been taken as the complete, rigorous meaning of a machine (as counterposed to a ‘gadget’ – which works only within a larger machinic assemblage). Only by exporting entropy does anything of even minimal complexity get to continue its existence. The production of order is functionality in its most elevated, teleological sense.

A piece of rhetoric which merely celebrates order, as something nice to have, is worth nothing in itself. “We want order” is the “give us free stuff” slogan of intellectually degenerated reaction. When examined closely, it is indistinguishable from political pan-handling. (Democracy has taught everyone how to beg.) It is unlikely that even the most radically degraded libertarian would be shameless enough to consider “wealth is good, poverty is bad” anything more than an expression of sub-comic emotional incontinence. “Order is good, chaos is bad” is a slogan of exactly equivalent merit. “We want order” is just “we want money” at a superior level of generality. Monkeys want peanuts, but we are reluctant to dignify their hungry hooting with the label ‘political philosophy’.

Entropy dissipation is a problem. It might quite reasonably be considered the problem. Any serious social theory is respected insofar as it elicits the question: So how is entropy dissipated? The main current of Anglophone intellectual culture focuses tightly upon it, in a broad lineage from Newtonian mechanics, the Scottish Enlightenment, the science of heat, classical economics, and Darwinian naturalism, into theories of complexity, distributed systems, dynamic networks, and productive multiplicities. Spontaneous order is the consistent topic. ‘Spontaneous’ means only: Does not presuppose that which it is tasked with explaining. If the genesis of order is not being theorized, order is merely being assumed, and then consumed. The difference is between a supply side problematic (“how is order practically produced?”) and an empty demand (“we want more order”). The former is industrial, the latter simply tyrannical, when it is anything at all beside vacuous noise.

Unless a pol-econ. theory can contribute to an explanation of the production of order (dissipation of entropy), it is wasting everyone’s time. “But I really want order” is just silliness. It’s astounding that it could ever be thought otherwise.

March 7, 2016admin 48 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Political economy
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