Over the course of this week I attended a conference in Hanoi on the 100th anniversary of the October revolution. The conference had been jointly organised by VASS and byWARP .  It was evident that among the Vietnamese and Chinese Marxists attending there was both an acceptance of the prevailing market socialist lines of these countries – which was only to be expected given their circumstances. But there was also a prevailing doubt about the scientific status of Marxist theory. It tends to be seen as an ideology rather than as a hard science. This is partly a result of past dogmatism and partly a result of the real contradiction between Marxist theory and the actual policies that the economists feel they have to advocate. Thus what the WARP participants were saying came as something of a surprise to our Vietnamese colleagues at first. The initial response was simply to be dismissive of us, saying we lacked experience of socialism. Well, it is unclear to me that Vietnam or China since they adopted a mixed economy approach, are actually any more socialist than the UK was at the end of Wilson’s 4th government. Our positions also grew out of experience, just different ones.


By the second day, the novelty of what we were saying had gotten accross enough for us to convince at least some of our listeners that there might be some areas where international research into scientific Marxism should be listened to, and perhaps some works should be translated. I have, by email, send a number of publications that seem relevant to people with whom I spoke. It was suggested to me that I make the list more widely available by this blog.

Statistical Mechanics and political economy

The pioneering work on statistical mechanics of income is by Yakovenko see here .

For the application of statistical mechanics to the law of value see the book Laws of Chaos by Farjoun and Machover. An introduction to which is given here.

Ian Wright extends the work of Machover and Yakovenko to the case where wage labour exists.
I have published with Yakovenko, Wright and others a book called Classical Econophysics, this covers their work and that of Farjoun and Machover and also addresses issues of automation etc.
On the empirical statistics of the labour theory of value the pioneering work is was Empirical Strength by Shaikh.

For a slightly more philosophical information theoretic approach see our Scientific Status paper.

Cybernetic Communism

The book Towards a New Socialism by Cottrell and Cockshott was written as a reply to the claim by Margaret Thatcher that there was no economic alternative to capitalist market economy, and shows that with computer technology there is one.

The fiction work by the English Author Francis Spufford Red Plenty  covers ideas of cybernetic socialism in the USSR in the 50s.

There was an attempt by the Socialist government in Chile to set up a cybernetic economy .

A number of polemical papers of relevance are:
Calculation, Complexity and Planning: The Socialist Calculation Debate Once Again‘ (Review of Political Economy, July 1993). An analysis and response to the historic ‘socialist calculation debate’ involving Mises, Hayek, Lange and others is in
Socialist Planning After the Collapse of the Soviet Union‘ (Revue européene des sciences sociales, 1993) gives an analysis of what went wrong with central planning in the USSR, and implications for the socialist calculation debate.

Information and Economics: A Critique of Hayek‘ (Research in Political Economy, 1997) is a counter-argument to Hayek’s influential critique of socialist planning in his article `The Use of Knowledge in Society’.

Economic Planning, Computers and Labor Values‘ (working paper, 1999). Includes a detailed consideration of the argument of Samuelson and Weiszäcker on optimal pricing under socialism.

Computing science Philosophy

On computer science philosophy a good start is The Unknowable by Chaitin and his recent extension of information theory to
o biology. For a strict materialist approach to computability see Computation and its Limits.  You also get a materialist approach from the Churchlands in their defence of AI.  As  of course you do in  in Turing’s work on AI.

Turing’s biographer has  papers on Turing’s philosphical work. I also have an article on the Nature website on the philosophical implications of Turing.  The issues of computational complexity have been raised by Austrian school economists to attack the possibility of socialist planning. A refutation of this attack on socialism is given by Michaelson et al. This is part of the more general refutation of the anti-materialist doctrine of hypercomputation.

For a contrating Platonist idealist approach to computer philosophy one can read Penrose.