Commoning against entropy: a review of “The Entropy of Capitalism”


The Entropy of Capitalism, BRILL (Leiden-Boston), 2012

by Robert Biel

A diverse, rhizome-like network of commoning experiments that allow the free deployment of human capacity and creativity is what a post-capitalist future holds, according to Robert Biel, author of “The Entropy of Capitalism” and Senior Lecturer at UCL’s Development Planning Unit at the Bartlett School of Architecture.

Biel comes to this conclusion after presenting a rigorous analysis of modern-day capitalism through the lens of the laws of thermodynamics. His reasoning starts from the principle that any system requires energy to function. So long as it is able to obtain that energy from its environment and dissipate any waste into the same environment, the system may reproduce itself. Problems arise, however, as the environment’s capacity to offer resources to/receive waste from the system’s metabolism is exhausted. At that point, the system effectively becomes closed and does not escape the second law of thermodynamics, which states that a closed system is subject to increasing entropy (i.e. the energy in that system goes from an “orderly”, useable form to a “disorderly” unuseable form), causing a progressive depletion of the system’s energy. Read more