The concept of capital is widely and diversely used in different social spheres. It is indeed, a fundamental part of Western civilization, whose history has been studied through the lense of capital by some of the West’s most influential thinkers.
We are presented nowadays with different notions of capital. Economic or financial capital is at the center of such presentations since it is the basis for any other representation of capital and serves as the main semantic structure to observe and understand the behavior of a productive and a consuming social unit. We study the characteristics of capital to understand the structure and dynamics of the market, and other social dynamics.
Yet the notion of capital allows us to apprehend different levels of the human experience, such as social interrelations (social capital), knowledge and training (human capital), heritage and taste (cultural capital), access to natural resources (environmental capital) and other sub-types presented by a diverse pull of authors.
The basic metaphor of capital is used to describe how individuals and organizations are endowed with assets of different types. Given we function as an integrated global society, different sets of variables serve to explain and understand how a specific individual or entity uses such endowment to achieve a determined goal. Our current paradigm has set “growth” as one of the most general goals, and it is one of the basic characteristics of capital: it is subject to growth.
Capital is dynamic and takes different forms literally and figuratively. Our goal is to understand the different forms capital takes and may take, how it may transform from one type to another and how it is transfered and deployed through specific systems. We will deal with a specific set of capital types and will build up from this point on.
So, what is capital? For the most formal of establishments, capital is a specific form of endowment by which individuals and entities may be observed and measured. Capital is observable, to a great extent, and there are institutions who play the role of inventorying such capital for individuals and groups such as banks, universities and socio-political organizations.
To begin, Capital may be inherited or acquired.
A valid and interesting question that may arise for keen observers is: can capital be created from scratch? Objectively speaking, you may not create capital from scratch, you always need some sort of resource, be it material or human, to reach the state -or one of the states- of capital.
Now, it is important to note, that Capital is inherited or acquired for one essential reason: capital is good.
Individuals and organizations cherish capital, they seek it and take care of it to the best of their ability. And it is ontologically good because it allows individuals and organizations to acquire that which they need and/or desire.
Capital is a language for social interaction.
A system that permits and facilitates exchange of ideas, information and things. It is a product and a tool of our human, social dynamics.
Stating “capital is good in essence” is by itself an entire ethical ordeal. Or, is it? Several movements in history and in current politics and pop culture have pronounced against capitalism. Capitalism, of course, is not the same as capital. Capitalism is an ethos. It is also a legal and institutional framework. Capital, on the other hand, refers to the main unit by which we measure and keep track of our human experience.
Capital is also relatable to a specific social unit, be it an individual, a family, an enterprise, a foundation, a community or a nation. Therefore, relationships between such entities, at any level, may be understood and engaged in terms of capital. Such relations, undersood in capital terms, are rich and plural. They bare holistic meanings and translate into practical-pragmatical aspects of life. Capital allows the abstract to become or be understood as specific and the specific to become and be understood as abstract, hence being a useful tool for building our world.
The relationship between value and values is one of the most important aspects that make up for a holistic intepretation of capital. And the reason they are presented as a relationship instead as a specific concept of “value” is because value and values are, in the specific sense not comparable. Values are valued, of course, and value in an economical sense -as is studied in faculties and media constantly around the globe-, is an integral part of moral systems.
The holistic perspective of capital is richly assited by the holistic interpretation of the dynamics of value and values. Having established -or reestablished- such relationship, one may approach a question of such specificity that may assist us in our pursuit of understanding capital: what do people value? And in a more precise way: what does the specific social entity one wishes to engage value?
Values may be written down privately and they can be formally published. They are an important part of social integration, as are a part of education formally and informally, and people need to have conversations about and around them as a strategy and tactic for determining time allocation strategies which end up serving the purpose of social cohesion and “identification”, also in its holistic sense.
So that which people value may be observed and verified by conversation -and its more technified versions used in applied social science- in an individual and aggregate form. And it is capital that once again will assist us in our ordeal of understanding and engaging in that which is valued through the acts of consumption and production.
Consumption and production not only may be observed, verified and tested in controlled and natural contextual conditions, but it may be also categorized in objective categories, related to categories studied by many other disciplines that constantly conduct research on related categories. This real dynamics justify and legitimize the study of capital, values and value from a holistic perspective.
We will be dealing with such categories in this medium and other related media. Such categories are:
the aesthetical, the spiritual, the social, the historical, the symbolic, the economic-financial, the environmental and the cultural.
This is the basis for the definition of a holistic system for the understanding and engaging of strategies to increase quality of life.