When discussing macroscopic systems, it is common to see the term “entropy” employed as a way of describing the tendency of a system to progress towards greater disorder. In our everyday lives, we are familiar with the fact that as machines are used, for instance, they tend to break down. Likewise, we all have observed that a building, if left to itself, will eventually decay and fall apart due to the actions of nature. In each case, we see a progression from order to disorder, from usefulness to disusefulness.
The scientific definitions of entropy are somewhat different, and more precise, than this colloquial sense of the term. However, they still tend to reinforce the macroscopic, empirical sense of entropy which most of us would recognise. There are two primary definitions which physicists use to describe entropy: the thermodynamic and the statistical. In the first, entropy is thought of as the tendency of a system to reach thermal equilibrium on the microscopic scale – within a system not already in equilibrium, heat flows from the hot portion to the cold portion until a new equilibrium temperature is reached, accompanied by an increase in entropy within the overall system. It is useful to think of this increase in entropy as “energy dispersal,” and entropy can be viewed as an increase in heat that is unavailable to do work – i.e. it is waste heat, it cannot be harnessed to drive mechanical or chemical processes within the system.
The second definition is statistical and is related to the thermodynamic one in that it describes the increase in available “microstates” – specific configurations which the atoms and molecules of the materials making up the system in question may take – that are probabilistically available to the system. The greater the entropy, the more microstates are available, with the probability of each microstate being occupied being equal with all others. The macroscopic result is that, again, a system tends toward equilibrium, toward the greatest number of probable microstates – atomic and molecular configurations – which may exist system wide and which are reflected in the specific macroscopic quantities such as temperature and pressure arrived at in the system. In short, disorder is more probable than order, and systems naturally tend toward it.
Now, entropy will always tend to increase in a closed system. However, in an open system in which energy or matter may be introduced or removed, this is not always the case. The introduction of energy into an open system may decrease the entropy of that system provided it is employed in such a way as to dissipate waste heat outside the system (in which case the entropy of the environment increases more than the entropy of the system decreases, thereby maintaining the Second Law). In other words, work must be done by the heat or other energy being introduced. Throwing the parts from a disassembled pocket watch into a pan and heating them on a stove will not result in a decrease in entropy – the parts will not spontaneously assemble themselves back into an ordered machine, and if the parts are heated to the point they melt, their entropy increases even more with the phase transition, reflecting the higher degree of disorder in the metallic atoms.
However, applying mechanical energy to a system in such a way as to bring order to that system can decrease the entropy of the system, even as the waste heat from the expenditure of the mechanical energy (i.e. the energy no longer able to do work) is vented outside the open system and increases the overall entropy of the environment. If we took the parts of the disassembled watch and reassembled them into a functioning machine, we have imposed order on them, thereby decreasing the entropy of the watch’s system – even as we increased the overall entropy of the environment surrounding through the waste heat radiated from our bodies as our muscles and brain cells utilise glucose and release energy, as we breathe out heated gases, as we work against friction and gravity and other forces that would oppose our manipulation of the watch pieces.
I’ve said all that to say this – as I’ve noted elsewhere, I believe that we can draw strong analogies between physical and social systems. This is the case with entropy – just as there is entropy in the realm of physics and information, so also is there entropy in the social realm. This, in and of itself, is not a new concept, and indeed has been explored in depth by Kenneth Bailey and his circle of academics. The idea of social entropy has proven to be a useful model in the study of social systems so as to explain the tendency of social networks and structures to degrade over time from order and cooperation toward disorder and conflict.
What has not been brought out, I don’t believe, is the role which classical liberals – corresponding to American conservatives and libertarians, the “muh constertooshun” Ted Cruz cuckservatives – have had in enabling and advancing the social entropy of American society as it rapidly heads toward complete social disintegration.
Conservatism – if we wish a strictly denotative definition – is supposed to be about conserving what we already have. It is supposed to revolve around the maintenance of traditional social and cultural standards and ways of life. A “conservative” understands that the old ways are best, not just because they are old, but because they intrinsically work – which is why they became traditional in the first place. Real conservatives seek to maintain order. They preserve civilisation. They recognise the natural fact of inequality among men. They understand the need for social virtue, not simply political prescription.
Yet, modern conservatives and libertarians do none of this. Indeed, their philosophy is a rejection of genuine conservatism, resting as it does on the spurious assumptions of “Enlightenment” notions like “equality” and “the goodness of man.” The plain fact of the matter is that modern American conservatives – these Ted Cruz clones running around trying to “restore” a Constitution which will not be, and probably should not be, restored – essentially make the exact same assumptions about mankind, about society, about power and authority, which today’s self-styled “progressives” make.
Ask yourself this question – what have modern American conservatives ever actually conserved? Can you name even one thing? Have they been able to preserve marriage from the spurious and blasphemous redefinition associated with “gay marriage”? Have they been successful in ending the abomination of abortion? Have they preserved property rights? Have they conserved religion or social order or traditional morals, even within their own circles? The answer is no, No, NO. Today we find them even unwilling to preserve America itself as a viable sovereign nation. Conservatives have been completely ineffective at conserving anything. Modern American conservatism is an abject failure, a farce that only continues to be played out because there are political spoils and PAC monies to be had from it.
What’s more, these “conservatives” don’t simply fail to halt the tide of social demoralisation and dissolution, in many cases they actively abet it. What to make of these conservatives who would gladly introduce millions of hostile and inassimilable foreigners into our land, justifying it with appeals to the equality of all men or else to the economic contingencies of the “free movement of labour”? What are we supposed to think when conservatives and libertarians assist in destroying community and bond-building institutions, pejoratively calling these “collectivist,” as they solvate society into a morass of atomic individuals? Can we really take conservatives seriously when many of their “leaders” claim that “gay marriage” will preserve that institution, and that a “conservative case” can be made for it? Conservatives operate under the same feminist, equalitarian, and multicultural assumptions as do progressives – so it’s no surprise that against their better judgment they end up arriving at many of the same conclusions.
Hence, right along with their progressive kindred, conservatives are agents of social entropy. Progressives introduce disorder and conservatives resist attempts by genuine traditionalists and neoreactionaries – the ones who are actually trying to restore order and reduce social entropy – to combat it.
We can observe this by analogy to physical entropy, too.
For instance, it was noted above that the thermodynamic definition of entropy involves the progression of a system towards equilibrium, essentially a point where all parts of the system are equal. That is exactly what progressivism and modern conservatism are both angling for through their acceptance of equalitarianism. They believe everyone are equal. What’s more, they believe everyone should be equal. They love democracy, universal suffrage, human rights without social obligations or responsibilities, and economic leveling by one means or another. To them, the world is – somehow – inexorably moving toward an end of history which will be completely given over to secular liberal democracy. In modern-day America, both progressives and conservatives agree that each of us is as good as any other. The “Jersey Shore” lifestyle is just as good as that of upright living and scholarly self-improvement – how dare you suggest otherwise! The democratisation introduced by social media has only made it worse – now any fool with a pulse intends to be taken as seriously as the person of quality who advances informed opinions based on reasoned social interest.
Yet, a healthy society necessarily has inequalities. A sane society contains both those relative few who lead and wield authority, and the many who follow those in authority. Thermodynamically, a system can only perform work, can only really achieve usefulness, when there is an inequality, a place of high heat and a place of low heat. The natural aristocracy are the high heat – those who generate the ideas and action which advances human civilisation. The masses are the low heat – content of themselves to vegetate in front of a TV, yet able to me mobilised with the proper motivation and leadership. When a society purports to remove these inequalities, to make everyone “equal,” and especially when it hobbles those who would form the natural aristocracy, the entire society is stultified. It begins to approach equilibrium, and the vital social functions which serve to maintain order fall apart.
Likewise, the statistical definition of entropy applies here as well. Human societies can be dealt with as statistically treatable aggregations of individual bodies. When a society is in a lower entropy state, when it maintains order and limits the vagarities and wild excesses of unaccountable “freedom,” i.e. when there are fewer “microstate” configurations which the aggregation of individuals may occupy, that society has greater structure, organisation, and community. However, as a society approaches that equilibrium of highest possible microstates, greater disorder is introduced. In short, while conservatives and progressives alike speak so blithely of “unchaining the human spirit,” introducing liberty without order or responsibility simply results in a society of atomised individuals who work at cross purposes to each other and to their communities.
Conservatives like to speak much of their reverence for the past (though for many of them, “the past” extends back only to Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980). However, they do little to preserve it, much less to restore it. Traditionalists and neoreactionaries revere the past because it was, intrinsically, better than what we have now. Our current social system is out of synch with reality and nature. Disorder is high, while those institutions that seek to maintain and extend order are weakened and in disrepute. Conservatives, despite their multitude of professions of love for the old ways, simply do not act like it, and indeed side with the enemies of civilisation. Carlyle once said,
“Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct.”
By their actions, conservatives demonstrate that they are not expending energy to perform the work necessarily to lower the entropy of our social system. By and large, they have instead given themselves over to being agents of social entropy.
On the other hand, those of us who seek to return to a more rational and natural social system are seeking to introduce order into our social system. We are trying to decrease our social entropy. A society is an open system. Entropy can be reduced. In the process, waste heat may be released elsewhere – those who are unhappy with the imposition of order might choose to go somewhere else, for instance – and outside entropy may increase because of it. The energy we expend (both in a figurative and in a literal sense) to restore order and structure to society will not be an accident, but will only come through deliberate action, just as the pocket watch must be rebuilt through the expenditure of energy toward an organising end. It is the purpose of Tradition and neoreaction to provide this energy in such a way that society will be built back up, rather than further ripped apart. Begin by building up individuals through virtue, morality, and education, and proceed to use these individuals to build their families, churches, männerbunds, and communities. From there, apply the organisation toward larger and larger units within society. If done rightly, this restorative organisation could almost seem as natural and spontaneous as a self-organising structure in nature seems.