Kunstler and Entropy

Those of you who’ve already read The Long Emergency likely know exactly where I’m at in the book. I set the book down and decided to think on-screen about Kunstler’s use of the concept of entropy as a way of framing the oil economy.

First, let me note that one of my all-time favorite novels (actually a novella) is Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, a jam-packed little book that uses entropy as one of several motifs. Pynchon’s use of entropy as a metaphor for social decay is quite powerful, and it’s one of the reasons that I still find myself picking the book up again every now and then (I first read it in 1988).

I bring that up as a counterpoint to Kunstler, because he seems to be using entropy literally: we’re in the final stages of the dispersion of the organization created by the oil economy. While I’m really enjoying the book overall, that seems incredibly problematic — interestingly enough, Kunstler himself points to some of the reasons why it’s a problem. Entropy, of course, is the second law of thermodynamics, and gives us great insight into changes in physical matter. To apply this wholesale to human behavior and human-created institutions seems oversimplistic, though. Kunstler himself notes that economics can’t ever approach the certainty of hard science because human emotion is a factor of economics that’s incredibly unpredictable and irrational. I’d think that would also apply in attempting to apply a law of physics to human behavior — wouldn’t it?

OK, back to the book. Feel free to correct and instruct…

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