By Robert Biel and Mu-Jeong Kho
University College London, United Kingdom
Hitherto, dialectics has been weakly integrated with the regulationist/institutional perspective. This paper proposes a series of hypotheses which, it is hoped, can help to bridge this divide. In achieving this, an important tool will be the issue of energy. Although systems thinking are no stranger to the regulationist perspective, the approach has been defined quite narrowly, resulting in somewhat semantic debates about, for example, structural functionalism and evolution, structure and agency. By focusing on what is inherently the foundation of the study of physical systems theory, namely energy, this paper proposes a dialectical materialist foundation for the study of productive socio-economic systems and their regulation. The paper reviews several of the more promising approaches to the social regulation of energy, which help to fill in the ‘missing link’ in the ongoing regulationist research project on dialectics and systems. Focusing on a positive study of the operation of capitalism, we first consider the energy issue internal to socio-economic systems, considering the relationship between conservatism and change. We then address the issue of energy and entropy in the dialectical relations between social and physical systems, before concluding with some normative implications.
Biel, R. and Kho, Mu-Jeong (2009) “The Issue of Energy within a Dialectical Approach to the Regulationist Problematique”, published by the Association Recherché et Régulation (RR; http://theorie-regulation.org), c/o LEPII-CNRS, Université Pierre Mendès France, 1241, rue des Résidences, BP 47 - 38040 Grenoble Cedex, Série ID (Institutions et Développement), RR (Recherché et Régulation) Working Paper n° 2009-1: 1-23.