Chaos Theory and Marxism

Chris M. Sciabarra sciabrrc at is2.NYU.EDU
Sat Sep 16 07:40:19 MDT 1995

On Sat, 16 Sep 1995, Jamal Hannah wrote:

> I've felt this way for a couple years now, and still do:
> I think Chaos Theory (not mathematical, but rather a social interpretation)
> only proves that "Marx was right all along".  If one accepts that a
> Chaos theory of reality goes something like this:
>   The universe is a chaotic morass of interactions, and end-results
>   are determined by each reaction.  The "reality" that is accepted by
>   the observer is actually the end-result of the chaotic processes
>   and interactions that preceded it. (And which will continue)
> ...I don't see any difference in Chaos Theory and Marxist Dialectics at all.
> They are just two different names for the same thing.

	Interestingly, I've had the same feeling-- but I also believe
that there are the same parallels between chaos theory and Hayek's notion
of "spontaneous order" and "unintended consequences."  Marx was of
course, a pioneer, as Elster has remarked, in the methodological attempt
to trace "unintended consequences."  His whole theory -- whether you
accept it or not -- tries to make sense of a system of production which
functions "behind the backs" of people, a system whose "anarchic"
movement leads to a kind of spontaneous order that is not controllable by
any particular person or group within that order.  Of course, Marx
believes that the system can be transcended and controlled; Hayek argues
that there are epistemic strictures which prevent central control.
Nevertheless, it seems to me that there are very real parallels --
identities perhaps -- in chaos theory, dialectics, Hayekian spontaneous
order, in that they are all concerned with grasping in very similar,
nearly identical terms, the relational interactions in an organic social
					- Chris
Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra
Visiting Scholar, NYU Department of Politics
INTERNET:  sciabrrc at

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