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John Bates Clark’s Conception of Capital


  • McCain, Roger

    () (School of Economics LeBow College of Business Drexel University)


This paper revisits the economic theory of John Bates Clark, with specific reference to his concept of capital, which seems very little remembered. For Clark, capital is to be distinguished from capital goods and is a resource that is at once immaterial and, in routine circumstances, permanent. Drawing on the original definition of holism in the writings of General the Right Honorable Jan Christiaan Smuts, it is argued that Clark’s conception is holist rather than (as in the case of other concepts of capital and most other economic theory) reductionist. That is, for Clark capital is an emergent property of a market equilibrium in or near equilibrium. This poses questions as to whether the concept can be extended to other economic forms, such as central planning, or indeed can be applicable to a capitalist economy constantly in the process of self-transformative flux.

Suggested Citation

  • McCain, Roger, 2013. "John Bates Clark’s Conception of Capital," School of Economics Working Paper Series 2013-8, LeBow College of Business, Drexel University.
  • Handle: RePEc:ris:drxlwp:2013_008

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Harcourt,G. C., 1972. "Some Cambridge Controversies in the Theory of Capital," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521096720, March.
    2. Tibor Scitovsky, 1954. "Two Concepts of External Economies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 62, pages 143-143.
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    More about this item


    Capital; general equilibrium; holism; reductionism;

    JEL classification:

    • B13 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Neoclassical through 1925 (Austrian, Marshallian, Walrasian, Wicksellian)

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