[OPE-L:6353] is capitalism chaotic?

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Tue, 24 Mar 1998 15:47:49 -0500 (est)

Paul C wrote on Tue, 24 Mar:

> Why should it [dispersion of profit rates, JL] not be wide, given that
> market economies are chaotic?

How exactly is capitalism chaotic? <that's a serious question>

Does this mean that the dynamic of capitalist accumulation is

Would that, by itself, mean that chaos theory is an appropriate conceptual
tool for understanding those dynamics?

I ask these in all seriousness because I'm not sure if the logic embodied
within the math of chaos theory is the most appropriate for grasping the
the dynamic nature of capitalism.

When we consider the reproduction schema, we see a system with a certain
logical *order* to it. Granted, we also see the formal possibility of
crises. Granted, Marx in V2 hasn't discussed the dynamics of accumulation
in the context of an investigation of capitalist production as a whole.
Yet, even so, is the picture there and even in VIII one of a chaotic
system? Uncertainty, yes. Crisis-prone, yes. But chaotic?

I'm not saying here that Marx thought of capitalism as a predictable and
self-equilibrating system, but did he -- and can we? -- really see it as

I know chaos theory is pretty popular with economists now -- and also
pretty widely accepted by mathematicians and scientists in many other
fields -- but how appropriate is it to use that theory to understand
capitalist dynamics? Just because other economists seem to be jumping
on-board the chaotic bandwagon is not *by itself* a good reason for us to
jump on board.

In solidarity, Jerry