Econophysics -- dumb question

Gordon Fitch gcf at
Tue Aug 29 08:09:58 PDT 2000

Gordon Fitch wrote:
> > 4. Economic processes may be frequently, even customarily,
> > overruled by other social processes, like politics.

Carrol Cox:
> But politics is not one thing, economics another. Economic processes
> simply do not exist as an independent system, with politics an outside
> element. There is a complex of social relations. Economics, as studied
> by modern economists, is a false abstraction from that complex. And all
> attempts to understand social relations which assume "the economy" as an
> entity are necessarily nonsense -- incoherent.

Yes, but physics is an abstraction from a complex, and it "works".

It would have been more accurate for me to say "social processes we think of as chiefly economic", "social processes we (perhaps arbitrarily) assign to the realm of politics", etc., but it would have ruined the prosody.

Sciences don't have to be coherent. In the early stages of a science, a considerable effort has to be made just to collect the facts and establish vocabulary and especially taxonomy. The elegant formulas and broad coherence of physics represent thousands of years of effort by millions of people on a small and well-defined set of phenomena. Chemistry is just now being "physicized", and presumably biology will follow, as the characteristics of living creatures become molecules and then the geometry of particles. I am curious about the condition of economics, if physics-like analysis can be already applied in its pursuit.

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