Steve.Keen at Steve.Keen at
Fri Dec 16 13:15:31 MST 1994

Lulu's recent description of a strange attractor is technically correct,
but I expect a bit too technical for some on this list! But it omits one
feature of a true strange attractor, which is the one that I think Ron
was actually alluding to.

That is that in a strange attractor, the system can seem to be settling
down to a particular equilibrium, and then suddenly flies off to orbit
around another, quite different, equilibrium. But rather than settling
down there, it flies off again, towards another; and another, and so

Applied in an analogous sense to social evolution, as Ron originally
did, it does lead to the sorts of conclusions Ron was making--that there
is no final resting point for society, etc. This is doubly so since a
strange attractor can be generated from as few as three equations with
fixed values, when any model of society is going to have a few more
equations than three, values that are far from fixed, and indeed, the
evolution of new "equations" as time goes on.

The potential appeal of this analysis to Marxists is that which Ron
first pointed out--and which was suggested in a discussion which
preceded him joining the list--that these mathematical artefacts
are very similar in the way they analyse phenomena to the
philosophical artefact of dialectics.

There is also a "negative" for Marxism here, which Ron emphasised:
chaos theory predicts no eventual resting point, yet the developers
of dialectics both foresaw dialectical processes leading to an
eventual social "nirvana" (though Hegel's was rather different to
Marx's!). In my opinion, this points out how that aspect of both
Hegel and Marx's logic was undialectical.

Steve Keen
PS Leaving the technical bit to the end, what Lulu was actually
describing was a chaotic limit cycle; a strange attractor exists
when a system has two or more such limit cycles embedded in it--
as with Lorenz's weather equations


More information about the Marxism mailing list