Chapter 20: Cultural Capital
David Throsby The concept of capital has been fundamental to the interpretation of production processes in economics for more than 200 years. Capital can be defined as durable goods that give rise to a flow of services over time that may be combined with other inputs such as labour to produce further goods and services. The original and longest-serving interpretation of capital arising from this definition has been physical or manufactured capital, meaning plant and equipment, machines, buildings and so on. In the second half of the twentieth century a further form of capital was identified, namely human capital, being the inherent characteristics of people that make them productive. Subsequently, the idea of natural capital was developed, allowing the designation of renewable and non-renewable resources as capital assets. More recently still, the concept of capital has been extended into the field of art and culture, in an effort to recognize the distinctive features of artworks and other cultural goods as capital assets, and to capture the ways in which such assets contribute, in combination with other inputs, to the production of further cultural goods and services. Thus the economic concept of cultural capital has taken shape. What is distinctive about cultural capital, allowing it to be set apart from the other forms of capital described above? Two possibilities have been suggested. First, it could be proposed that items of cultural capital are simply cultural goods that happen to be capital goods (in the sense defined in the previous paragraph) rather...
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