Re: [OPE] Thermodynamics and labor theory of value

From: Paul Cockshott <>
Date: Fri Sep 19 2008 - 05:41:55 EDT

Charlie wrote:
> Paul writes:
> 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.
> Paul previously wrote:
> 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.
> The Boltzmann distribution is a mathematical function of several
> variables. It is not physics or economics; as the saying goes, it has
> applications to this and that. Paul's argument seems to be:
> Gases and other physical systems are described by the Boltzmann
> distribution.
> Exchange economies are described by both Marx's labor theory of
> value and by the Boltzmann distribution.
> Therefore, Marx's labor theory of value follows from laws of physics.
Yes but the Boltzmann distribution distribution is the one mathematical
function that maximises entropy under the
assumption that there is some conserved property that is being preserved
in random interactions.
The concept of entropy was derived from what was initially a limited
domain of study -- improving the
efficiency of steam engines, but later through Boltzmann it was seen
that the laws of thermodynamics are
expressions of underlying laws of probability. In consequence people
realised that the concept of entropy
is much more general and can be applied to things other than heat
engines: chemical reactions, information
through Shannon, and now to economic phenomena.

So in a sense I should have said that it is the laws of probability
rather than the laws of physics that drive
both, but we conventionally treat the tendancy towards entropy
maximisation as a physical law, even though
one could in principle say it was a particular extension of probability
> Even changing "described" to some other verb, still, this is obviously
> not a logical argument. What am I missing?
I think what you are missing is this common probabilistic foundation to
both domains.
> Charles Andrews
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Received on Fri Sep 19 05:44:05 2008

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