Entropy law and exhaustion of natural resources Is Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen's paradigm defensible?

Elias L. Khalil

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46 Citations (Scopus)


I examine whether the entropy law dictates absolute limits to growth. I distinguish the entropy law proper - diffusion without coherent work - from its application, the Carnot cycle - diffusion with coherent work. While the entropy law pertains to mechanistic systems, the Carnot cycle is the result of purposeful agency. Since the economic process is carried out by purposeful agency to generate coherent work, it is not governed by the entropy law. Rather, it resembles the Carnot cycle. Resources hence cannot be defined objectively à la the entropy law. Resources can only be defined relative to the purposeful agency. Thus, the prognosticators of doom, like Georgescu-Roegen, cannot be bolstered by the entropy law.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-178
Number of pages16
JournalEcological Economics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1990

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