Author(s)Professor Jonathan Nitzan
Contributor(s)The Pennsylvania State University CiteSeerX Archives
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AbstractWhat is capital? Is capital the same as machines, or is it merely a financial asset? Is it ‘material ’ or ‘social’? Is it static or dynamic? Surprisingly, these questions have no clear answers. The form of capital, its existence as monetary wealth, is hardly in doubt. The problem is with the content, the ‘stuff ’ which makes capital grow, and on this aspect of capital there is no agreement whatsoever. For example, does capital accumulate because it is ‘productive, ’ or due to the ‘exploitation ’ of workers? Does capital expand ‘on its own, ’ or does it need ‘external ’ institutions such as the state? Can capital grow by undermining production and efficiency? What exactly is being accumulated? Does the value of capital represent a tangible ‘thing, ’ ‘utils, ’ ‘dead labour ’ or perhaps something totally different? What units should we use to measure its accumulation? The course offers a critical examination of the concept of capital, the process of capital accumulation, and the broader implications of capital accumulation for understanding how capitalism works. The first lecture provides an overview of political economy. The next two lectures outline the two existing approaches to capital: the utility-based neoclassical view and the labour-based Marxist perspective. The last four lectures present an alternative power-based approach to capital.