RE: [OPE] Thermodynamics and labor theory of value

From: Paul Cockshott <>
Date: Thu Sep 18 2008 - 17:32:23 EDT


"So modern physics has shown that not only was Marx right in his basic
analysis, but he was right because his conclusions follow from the most
basic laws of physics, the laws of thermodynamics."

I thought the argument was this: if you let/compel economic actors to
produce, buy, and sell according to certain rules -- rules of property
in capitalist societies, including the rights and duties of employees --

then prices and incomes obey equations that also describe the
temperature and such of gases.

The fact that the same equations apply to two different realms of
reality (the variables obviously standing for different things when
looking at one realm or the other) does not mean that one realm obeys
the laws of the other realm. So it seems one could as well say that
gases obey the laws of the labor theory of value.

Paul, are your title and statement quoted above just metaphorical
license, or do you mean them literally? I assume the former, and in that

case, I wonder why you find it helpful, politically or otherwise.


I mean at least part of it literally. Yakovenko's results apply to any
Pure exchange economy, including simple commodity production, or
By co-operatives and show that these all have a relatively uneven
Distribution of income and wealth, and that this follows from the
Principle of maximisation of entropy in chaotic systems. The principle
Of entropy maximisation under a conservation law is an abstract property
Of the Boltzman distribution, and this tendancy to entropy maximisation
Is a very fundamental law of the universe.
On the other hand actual distributions of income in capitalist economies
Differ slightly from the maximal entropy distribution, and Yakovenko
Shows that it is best described by two populations one governed by
The Gibbs Boltzman distribution, and another super-entropic population
Governed by a power law distribution. 
The super entropic population with the power law distribution includes
Far more very rich people than entropy maximisation alone would explain.
This he says corresponds to Marx's argument that there are two great
Classes in capitalist society, the working class ( who engage in 
Commodity exchange, selling labour power ) whose income distribution is
Gibbs-Boltzmann and the capitalist class whose income distribution is
power-law. It is powerlaw because the growth of capital is governed by a
Multiplicative process of compound growth which is different from
The additive process governing simple commodity exchange.
The political implications to me are that no fiddling with taxation or
Welfare benefits can change the fundamental properties of these income
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Received on Thu Sep 18 17:34:39 2008

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