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August 13, 2010

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Hugh Thomas

Interesting post. It seems like "far from equilibrium" systems could provide a productive model for aspects of social reality -- but the interesting feature of such a model would seem to be that the system, far from equilibrium, may not have any tendency to approach equilibrium.

An example from micro-economics would be monopoly formation -- there's a certain equilibrium price at which the number who want to buy equals the number who want to sell -- and yet in practice economic systems don't find that equilibrium in the case, for example, that a few sellers control the market to their advantage.

Freud's psychology of the ego is also phrased in terms of equilibrium-seeking (between libido and death drive), while Lacan's drive could then be viewed as a "far from equilibrium" condition. The failure to reach equilibrium is the defining feature of the circuit of drive.

Based on your comments on Nicolis and Prigogine, it seems that they introduce the possibility of "far from equilibrium" just to cancel it out by assuming that everything has an equilibrium, which it would just tend to "naturally" -- my impression is that the study of complex systems should actually tell you that that's not the case at all.

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