Re: [OPE-L] Marx on the general rate of profit/rate of interest: a translation error

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Wed Oct 31 2007 - 17:07:50 EDT

Jurrain wrote:

I didn't follow what you mean by that.

Entropy is commonly defined in at least five ways:

-  For a closed thermodynamic system, a quantitative measure of the
of thermal energy not available to do work.
- A measure of the disorder or randomness (implying uncertainty) in a
- A measure of the loss of information in a transmitted message.
- The tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve
toward a
state of inert uniformity.
- Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.
Paul replies

I mean the measure of disorder or randomness in a closed system,
specifically the disorder of the rate of profit. 


The entropy of English text is between 1.0 and 1.5 bits per letter
(Schneier, B: Applied Cryptography, Second edition, page 234).

I am always a bit wary of applying analogies and metaphors taken from
natural science to social phenomena in human society, admitting, of
that exponents of historical materialism have often ignored the
and physical basis of human life.
Paul replies

Remember that Marx was trying to lay down the 'laws of motion' of
capitalism. This is an explicitly Newtonian reference. In a system
governed by conservation laws, as the Newtonian system is, you can not
reduce the entropy of a closed system. Marx assumes conservation of
value and money in commodity exchange, and thus a system governed by
conservation laws. As Yakovenko shows, such a system is governed by the
laws of statistical mechanics, and in consequence the entropy does not


The tendency for industrial profit rates to level out could be viewed as
process, instead of an end state in which all profit rates are equal. I
think Marx hypothesizes that competition in a developed capitalism, or
the pure case, will ultimately establish a general norm of
extraction, and a general norm for the minimum acceptable industrial
rate, which inform the trade in labour and capital. But that is
that is very difficult to prove.



If you view it as a process with a stable dispersion of profit rates, I
have no problem with that, But this is something radically different in
mathematical terms to what the whole literature on the transformation
problem assumes.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Nov 02 2007 - 00:00:19 EDT