# Re: [OPE] The problem with Ian Wright's example: no equilibrium

From: Dave Zachariah <davez@kth.se>
Date: Wed Oct 07 2009 - 07:53:16 EDT

Let's look at Jurriaan's criticisms rather than rants about Althusser et al.

you wrote:

> whereas we might like to stay up all the time, the laws of physics tell us
> that what goes up, must come down. As so it is with the body suspended in
> its elliptical orbit: in reality, the body does fall slowly to the earth in
> a spiralling movement, and therefore THE IDEA THAT THERE REALLY EXISTS AN
> "EQUILIBRIUM POINT" AT ANY TIME IS FALSE.
>
> The "equilibrium point" of the suspended body is only a mathematical idea,
> never to be found in reality, and therefore, the equilibrium point HAS NO
> EFFICACY IN REALITY.
>
> If this is so, the "tendency towards equilibrium" CANNOT BE A "FORCE"
> EXERTED ON THE BODY IN ORBIT. It is a METAPHOR, not SCIENCE. We use the
> equilibrium point idea in science only to calculate what it would require to
> keep the body in its orbit or alter it.
>
> It is moreover completely false to equate "equilibrium" with "stability"
> because a stable condition is not necessarily equivalent to a balanced
> condition.
>
> The only thing that could cancel out the earth's gravitational force, is if
> the body itself could compensate for this pull by accelerating itself, for
> example, using a booster rocket, in other words, if the body was
> "self-regulating" in that sense - or, if the speed of the body was
> accelerated, by means of the intervention of some other external force.
>

I think this is completely wrong to characterize 'equilibrium' as a mere
metaphor. In that case you might as well dismiss most concepts from physics,
from 'energy' to 'potential fields'.

Equilibrium points may contain important information about a system's
dynamics and are therefore useful concepts. It does not mean that a system
ever reaches the points. (On the contrary, there are systems in which the
equilibrium point is unstable and does not work as an attractor, e.g. an
inverted pendulum.)

When looking at analogies in social systems it does not follow that human
agency is destroyed. The interest is rather what is the scope, or degrees of
freedom, and effects of agency in a system in which some patterns are
reproduced and some altered? It is precisely through human agency that such
mechanisms of materialize.

If you focus you posts, it is a lot easier to reply.

//Dave Z

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Received on Wed Oct 7 07:55:19 2009

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