For me the concept of entropy is a key concept of my OOO, if not the key concept. Yet I often find myself surprised by the response when I discuss entropy. Apparently, the immediate association many in the humanities have to this concept is that of decay and heat death. This, of course, is an important feature of the conception of entropy but is, in many respects, its most superficial aspect. Entropy, rather, is a measure of the order present in a system. A high entropy system is a system in which there is equal probability that an element will be located anywhere in the system. Such a system is characterized by having a high degree of information. This entails that such systems have low message value. By contrast, a low entropy system (what I call an “object”) is a system in which given the position of any particular element, the position of the all the other elements is readily determinable. Such systems have high message message value due to the low probability of their elements being organized in this way.

These concepts are of profound significance for social and political theory. All of social and political thought is, in one way or another, meditations on entropy. Societies are low entropy systems in which, across time, relations among elements composing society are highly regular and structured. Given the position of one element in such a system such as a black person or a working class person, the position of the other elements can be discerned. In “The Perception of the Future and the Future of Perception” von Foerster distinguishes between “trivial machines” and “non-trivial machines”. A trivial machine is a machine in which there is one-to-one correspondance between input and output. Given a particular input you will get a particular output. Press the button on your remote and the TV turns on. Such is what is ultimately meant by the “State” (“State” is not government, but rather government is a second-order system redundantly supervening on the State that regulates State when high entropic elements intervene. In this regard, government always marks the insufficiency of the State insofar as it implies the need for second-order mechanisms to intervene and steer the state. This is what Badiou means by “the state of the state”.) By contrast, a non-trivial machine is a machine in which the previous output of the machine modifies subsequent outputs.

All societies aspire to be trivial machines, such that given any inputs their elements will produce certain outputs. Such is the nature of despotic and oppressive regimes. This is what Foucault meant by power. Every regime or diagram of power is a mechanism for producing a trivial machine. Every diagram of power is thus a way of fighting entropy. Social and political thought investigates trivial machines or those machines by which entropy is minimized in societies. Hopefully, in the investigation of these machines, the aim is not to strengthen them, but to discover the machines by which oppressive regimes or machines function so as to target them. All questions of change and revolution are questions of how to introduce entropy into low entropy systems. This, however, is not a celebration of entropy for the sake of entropy, but rather is a question of producing other, more egalitarian, more just, more universal low entropy systems.