City Research Online

The chaos machine: The WTO in a social entropy model of the World Trading System

Collins, D. A. (2012). The chaos machine: The WTO in a social entropy model of the World Trading System. London: The City Law School of City University London.


This article applies social entropy theory to international trade law, suggesting that observed shifts in world trading system towards disorder are the consequence of insufficient “energy” inputs in the form of an effective, centralized legal framework. In support of this claim, the article draws attention to recognized and substantive deficiencies in the World Trade Organization (‘WTO’). These include trade round negotiation impasse, the rise of bilateralism, indeterminacy in the treaty texts and inadequate enforcement procedures. These problems represent increasing disorganization, or entropy, in the world trading system, a phenomenon characterized most notably by growing income inequality between states and failure to achieve progress in further trade liberalization. While this article does not propose either specific predictions or practical solutions to the dilemma of social entropy in the world trading system, it does suggest that a more robust, authoritative and trade-focused WTO is essential to counter the entropic tendencies within the supra-national trading system. This should help to ensure future growth and achieve the fuller distribution of economic prosperity through global trade.

Publication Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
K Law
Departments: The City Law School > Academic Programmes
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