Desmond McNeill: ‘Natural’, ‘Human’, ‘Social’: It’s All Capital Now

In Conceptualizing the World — An Exploration across Disciplines, 2018.


Desmond McNeill


Marx’s Capital constituted an incisive critique of the economic categories of capitalism – profit and rent - drawing on religious metaphors to convey their mystifying power. Today, the concept of capital itself has expanded, enhancing the power of the market to shape our relationship to the world. By calling the environment ‘natural capital’ we see it simply as a resource to be exploited. Improvements in health and education become productive investments - ‘increasing human capital’. Social relations become ‘social capital’, valuable to the extent that they increase economic growth. Such terminology encourages an economistic, technocratic, and market-oriented worldview, which is powerfully de-humanising.


Natural capital; human capital; social capital; Marx; framing.

Published Feb. 15, 2019 4:41 PM - Last modified Feb. 15, 2019 4:41 PM