"chaos" theory

glevy at acnet.pratt.edu glevy at acnet.pratt.edu
Wed Sep 20 14:59:24 MDT 1995

Chris B. and Steve gave very useful and surprisingly quick answers to
some of my questions. Unfortunately, the Pratt mainframe was down and I
have been too busy to respond to their posts yet. A few comments:

Chris B.:
> 1. In a way chaos theory does not have to be proved to marxists.
> It is now a fact of scientific life, like the theory of relativity and
> the uncertainty principle.

I am not asking for a proof of chaos theory. I am asking whether chaos
theory can be used to model capitalist dynamics without twisting those
dynamics. In other words, capitalism is non-linear, but *which* chaotic
model should be used to model a particular economic activity? This was
the question I asked before, but I don't think Chris or Steve answered it.
Chris and Lisa understand that chaos theory is useful in the natural
sciences. I would suggest that techniques that are useful in the natural
sciences may not be useful for understanding some social/economic questions.

> 3. The methodological underpinnings of chaos theory are simple:
> computers.

What are the methodological underpinings of computer programming
algorithms? Formal logic? Can all social questions and relationships be
grasped using this logic?
> 5. That there are many many non-linear models. This seems to be the
> essence of several of Jerry's questions.

Each chaotic model has different "mechanical" characteristics and
properties, yes? Let's specify these before we pick a particular model.

  but he will certainly
> have a very good short-list of variables that probably ought to be in
> the equation.

Picking and specifying the variables is only one issue. After one does
that, the outcome of your study will depend critically on the nature of
the particular mathematical technique selected.

  My overview, taking a tip from
> Mandelbrot is that very much of the actual reality of the universe is
> shaped by the interaction of non-linear processes and chance. I am not
> sure that it is necessary to posit anything else.
If you do not posit anything else, then your analysis must at least
specify the processes themselves in greater detail and then, if a
mathematical technique is required, select one which does justice to the
nature of the processes themselves.


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