Thermodynamics, matter, politics

Barry, Andrew
April 2015
Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory;Apr2015, Vol. 16 Issue 1, p110
Academic Journal
While there is a burgeoning literature on matter in social theory, there has been a surprising lack of interest amongst social theorists in the importance of the concept of energy in natural scientific accounts of matter. In this context, I examine how the work of Isabelle Stengers challenges social theorists to take thermodynamic accounts of energy, in particular, seriously. The paper develops three arguments: firstly, while social theorists have often wanted to add social relations to matter, in doing so they have ignored physical scientists’ own analyses of relations, including thermodynamics; secondly, that thermodynamics offers a different way of theorizing matter-energy than that suggested by vitalist approaches to political ecology; thirdly, that the thermodynamic concept of energy is necessarily linked to the practice and politics of measurement. At the same time, I argue that Stengers's account of thermodynamics both illuminates her understanding of politics, and points to its limitations.


Related Articles

  • Political materials: rethinking environment, remaking theory. Knox, Hannah; Huse, Tone // Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory;Apr2015, Vol. 16 Issue 1, p1 

    This paper introduces the special issue ‘Political Materials: Rethinking Environment, Remaking Theory’, by posing the question of just what kinds of analytical challenges and conceptual possibilities are being established by large scale environmental processes. We consider how the...

  • ¡EL ESTADO HA MUERTO. VIVA EL ESTADO! Trujillo Muñoz, Augusto // Vniversitas;ene-jun2010, Issue 120, p85 

    National states were born out of the gradual dissolution of the medieval society and ended up as a paradigm of the modern system of thought. Nonetheless in the XXI Century there are crises factors present. The new "local" reality discovers many factions assumed as truths not subject to...

  • The Social Theory of Mass Politics. White, Jonathan // Journal of Politics;Jan2009, Vol. 71 Issue 1, p96 

    This paper argues the study of mass politics is currently weakened by its separation from debates in social theory. A preliminary attempt at reconnection is made. The implications of an interpretative turn in social theorizing are explored, and the interpretative perspectives of mentalism,...

  • Cover.  // Political Analysis;Jan2015, Vol. 23 Issue 1, pi1 

    The front cover of this issue of "Political Analysis" is presented.

  • Governments alone won't turn the world green. Shevardnadze, Eduard // New Scientist;8/31/90, Vol. 131 Issue 1784, p50 

    Explores the role of political ecology in determining the domestic and international politics of any state. Creation of an international ecological foundation; Sources of funding for ecological foundation; Ideas of ecological politics.

  • Neither left nor right. Gaita, Raimond // Quadrant Magazine;Sep94, Vol. 38 Issue 9, p27 

    Analyzes the claims of right-wing and left-wing political divisions against each other. Economic incompetence of communist governments to vindicate liberalism and the widespread enthusiasm for free market economies; Collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Europe; Concept of intellectual...

  • Neoliberalism, neoconservatism, and spaces of and for coalition. Rudy, Alan P. // Agriculture & Human Values;Dec2006, Vol. 23 Issue 4, p423 

    The author reflects on the concept of neoliberalism, neoconservatism, and spaces of and for coalition. According to the author, the incongruity of globalized neoliberalism and localized neoconservatism still needs more recognition by the public. Neoliberalism and neoconservatism, on the other...

  • Classical Liberalism and the Basic Income. Zwolinski, Matt // Basic Income Studies;2011, Vol. 6 Issue 2, p-1 

    This article provides a brief overview of the relationship between libertarian political theory and the Basic Income (BI). It distinguishes between different forms of libertarianism and argues that at least one form, classical liberalism, is compatible with and provides some grounds of support...

  • A Becoming Together of the World: The Cosmopolitics of Isabelle Stengers. Goldsmiths, Martin Savransky // Journal of Philosophy: A Cross-Disciplinary Inquiry;Spring2012, Vol. 7 Issue 17, p75 

    The article reviews the book "Cosmopolitics I," by Isabelle Stengers.


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics