Tag: factors of production

Question: how many capitals can you name?

How many kinds of capital are there? How should we differentiate them? Why should we call them all capital? Do some kinds include or overlap with other kinds? Do they all share features in common, and/or do they exhibit family resemblance?

Consider the list below of kinds of capital. Which are more important, and which are less important? Which contribute the most to productivity, and which contribute the least, and under what circumstances would this priority change? Are there some kinds of capital that are missing from this list? Are some of these terms fake? Are some of these terms suggestive, but not generally used? Do some of them have different senses in different contexts? Should some of them be further subdivided? If some of them overlap with others, how would you assemble them as a Venn diagram, or a different kind of diagram, or several diagrams? If you had to pick one, which one would you be?

  • Tangible capital
  • Intangible capital
  • Built capital
  • Natural capital
  • Financial capital
  • Human capital
  • Social capital
  • Institutional capital
  • Reputational capital
  • Reputational collateral
  • Organizational capital
  • Instructional capital
  • Entrepreneurial capital
  • Intellectual capital
  • Agnatological capital
  • Public capital
  • Ecological capital
  • Climate capital
  • Green capital
  • Cultural capital
  • Cross-cultural capital
  • Diversity capital
  • Defense capital
  • Constant capital
  • Variable capital
  • Fictitious capital
  • Monopoly capital
  • Fixed capital
  • Circulating capital
  • Labor capital
  • Land capital
  • Resilience capital
  • Venture capital
  • Symbolic capital
  • Academic capital
  • Educational capital
  • Working capital
  • Liquid capital
  • Patient capital
  • Sexual capital
  • Racial capital
  • Identity capital
  • Political capital
  • Geographical capital
  • Game theoretic capital
  • Aid capital
  • Technological capital
  • Embodiment capital
  • Capital FM
  • Capital capital
  • Capital One
  • Network capital
  • Countercapital
  • Discursive capital
  • Individual capital
  • Historical capital
  • Hegemonic capital
  • Moral capital
  • Non-capital
  • Paris

When I read discussions of different forms of capital, particularly in the context of development economics, I often see the same pattern. First, let’s put financial capital aside, since it has so many complexities, and I’m not sure they’re relevant to what I’m talking about.

When we look at what’s left, we usually see: natural capital, built capital … and then one or more types of capital which, although they’re not usually named as such, I would describe as moral capital. By this I don’t mean that the countries which “possess” such capital really are filled with moral people. I mean that the way in which theorists imagine such capital is driven by their unacknowledged belief that if some countries are more productive than others, that’s because they probably deserve to be more productive.

For instance, the way in which most theorists imagine human capital, social capital, institutional capital, and instructional capital, puts emphasis on honesty, hard work, imagination, intelligence, courage, self-discipline, self-denial, individual autonomy, and rationality. No doubt there is some truth in this. But it intrigues me how closely this list resembles the reverse of a set of longstanding racist stereotypes, which have been thoroughly interrogated and critiqued at the interpersonal level, while perhaps still flourishing at the supra-individual, macroeconomic level. What if you were to flip it round, and say that the most productive countries are those holding the least of the following types of capital?

  • Deceit capital
  • Laziness capital
  • Hideboundedness capital
  • Stupidity capital
  • Cowardliness capital
  • Lack of discipline capital
  • Lusts and appetites capital
  • Need for the collective and/or strong authority capital
  • Brutishness capital

Scratchpad: Labor & Value

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651):

[…] As for the Plenty of Matter, it is a thing Limited by Nature, to those commodities, which from (the two breasts of our common Mother) Land, and Sea, God usually either freely giveth, or for labour selleth to mankind […]

William Petty, Treatise of Taxes and Contribution (1662):

[…] All things ought to be valued by two natural Denominations, which is Land and Labour; that is, we ought to say, a Ship or garment is worth such a measure of Land, with such another measure of Labour; foras-much as both Ships and Garments were the creatures of Lands and mens Labours there upon; This being true, we should be glad to finde out a natural Par between Land and Labour, so as we might express the value by either of them alone as well or better then by both, and as we reduce pence into pounds […]

William Petty, Treatise of Taxes and Contribution (1662):

[…] Labour is the Father and active principle of Wealth, as Lands are the Mother […]

William Petty, Verbum Sapienti (1665):

[…] It seems reasonable, that what we call the Wealth, Stock, or Provision of the Nation, being the effect of the former or past labour, should not be conceived to differ from efficiencies in being, but should be rated alike, and contribute alike to the common necessities […]

William Petty, Political Anatomy of Ireland (1672):

[…] this brings me to the most important Consideration in Political Oeconomies, viz. how to make a Par and Equation between Lands and Labour, so as to express the Value of any thing by either || alone […]

William Petty, Political Anatomy of Ireland (1672):

[…] the days food an an adult Man, at a Medium, and not the days labour, is the common measure of Value, and seems to be as regular and constant as the value of fine Silver […]

William Petty, Political Anatomy of Ireland (1672):

[…] I valued an Irish Cabbin at the number of days food, which the Maker spent in building of it […]

William Petty, Political Anatomy of Ireland (1672):

[…] By the same way we must make a Par and Equation between Art and Simple Labour […]

John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (1690):

[…] I think it will be but a very modest Computation to say, that of the Products of the Earth useful to the Life of Man 9/10 are the effects of Labour: nay, if we will rightly estimate things as they come to our use, and cast up the several Expences about them, what in them is purely owing to Nature, and what to labour, we shall find, that in most of them 99/100 are wholly to be put on the account of labour. […]

Richard Cantillon, Essai sur la nature du commerce en général  (1755):

[…] The Land is the Source or Matter from whence all Wealth is produced. The Labour of man is the Form which produces it: and Wealth in itself is nothing but the Maintenance, Conveniencies, and Superfluities of Life. […]

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776):

[…] That money or those goods indeed save us this toil. They contain the value of a certain quantity of labour which we exchange for what is supposed at the time to contain the value of an equal quantity. […]

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776):

[…] a commodity which is itself continually varying in its own value, can never be an accurate measure of the value of other commodities. Equal quantities of labour, at all times and places, may be said to be of equal value to the labourer […]

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776):

[…] Wages, profit, and rent, are the three original sources of all revenue, as well as of all exchangeable value […]

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776):

[…] The revenue of an individual may be spent, either in things which are consumed immediately, and in which one day’s expence can neither alleviate nor support that of another; or it may be spent on things more durable, which can therefore be accumulated, and in which every day’s expence may, as he chuses, either alleviate or support and heighten the effect of that of the following day […]

Karl Marx, Capital:

[…] The value of labour-power is determined, as in the case of every other commodity, by the labour-time necessary for the production, and consequently also the reproduction, of this special article. So far as it has value, it represents no more than a definite quantity of the average labour of society incorporated in it […]

Karl Marx, Capital:

[…] In contradistinction therefore to the case of other commodities, there enters into the determination of the value of labour-power a historical and moral element. Nevertheless, in a given country, at a given period, the average quantity of the means of subsistence necessary for the labourer is practically known […]

Karl Marx, Capital:

[…] In order to be able to extract value from the consumption of a commodity, our friend, Moneybags, must he so lucky as to find, within the sphere of circulation, in the market, a commodity, whose use-value possesses the peculiar property of being a source of value, whose actual consumption, The labour theory of value 170 therefore, is itself an embodiment of labour, and, consequently, a creation of value. The possessor of money does find on the market such a special commodity in capacity for labour or labour-power […]