Capitalism without Capital: The Rise of the Intangible Economy (an excerpt)

  • Jonathan Haskel
  • Stian Westlake
Keywords: investments, intangible assets, firms, state, economic growth, social inequality, capitalism


Capitalism without Capital by Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake explores the changes in the types of investments that have occurred in almost all developed countries over the last forty years. If tangible investments predominated in the past, most investments are intangible at present, meaning that money is spent on buying and creating knowledgebased products, including computer software, research and development, design, works of art, market research, learning, and new business processes. The authors attempt to answer why the economy in which intangible assets are intensively used is so different from the economy where tangible assets dominate. The authors conclude that these changes are explained by the basic properties of the intangible assets and have resulted in long-lasting stagnation, lower economic growth, increasing inequality, and difficulties in public policies for economic and financial sectors. The Journal of Economic Sociology publishes the introductory chapter, ‘Valuation, the Old-Fashioned Ways: Or a Thousand Years in Essex’ from Capitalism without Capital, where the authors discuss the meaning of investments, define the distinctions between tangible and intangible assets, and explain why some basic properties of intangible assets generate such dramatic changes in the contemporary economy.


Author Biographies

Jonathan Haskel

Professor of Economics, Director of the Doctoral Programme, Business School, Imperial College London. Address: South Kensington Campus, London, SW7 2AZ,  United Kingdom.

Stian Westlake

Former Adviser to the UK’s Minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation; Executive Director of Policy and Research of Nesta, the UK’s national foundation for innovation. Address: 58 Victoria
Embankment, London, EC4Y 0DS, United Kingdom.

How to Cite
HaskelJ., & WestlakeS. (2021). Capitalism without Capital: The Rise of the Intangible Economy (an excerpt). Journal of Economic Sociology, 22(1), 61-70. Retrieved from
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