Intangible Capital
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Intangible Capital

Its Contribution to Economic Growth, Well-being and Rationality

John F. Tomer

Despite increasing research efforts, there is still much confusion regarding the nature and contribution of the most intangible forms of capital. This book develops a comprehensive and unifying conception of intangible capital in order to understand its role with respect to economic growth, well-being, and rationality. As the book illustrates, utilizing the intangible capital concept enables many new and important economic insights. Intangible capital is defined to include standard human capital, noncognitive human capital (including personal capital), social capital, and other intangible manifestations of human capacity. Understanding intangible capital is a key to realizing the full human potential of our economic systems.
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Chapter 2: Intangible Capital: A Comprehensive and Unifying View

John F. Tomer


INTRODUCTION In any scientific study, it is important to define carefully the important terms. With respect to intangible capital (IC), this is doubly important because of the confusion that has been generated by many different definitions and usages of key terms in the different social science literatures. As has been widely noted, for social capital (SC) (just one, albeit important, component of IC), there are many different definitions and disciplinary perspectives. Baron and Hannan (1994: 1122–4) lament that there has emerged ‘a plethora of capitals,’ and sociologists ‘have begun referring to virtually every feature of social life as a form of capital.’ It is quite apparent that not all the IC concepts are equally valid; moreover, there are many confusing and overlapping categories. Obviously, there is a need for clarification and integration. What exactly are the legitimate types of IC? What types are not? And how does it all fit together? The purpose of Chapter 2 is to develop a comprehensive and unifying conception of IC. Because one of the sources of confusion in the IC and SC literatures is the variety of disciplinary perspectives, this chapter will attempt to lessen that confusion by focusing solely on a definition of IC that would be useful in a study of IC as an explanation of economic growth. This narrowing of focus makes the topic more relevant for economists, but hopefully still of interest to many noneconomists. TOWARD A BROAD CONCEPTION...

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