Erkan Gürpınar’s presentation “Thorstein Veblen on Capital as Knowledge: Some Implications for the Knowledge Economy” considered how theories on capital developed by the American economist Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) could be used to understand current developments in the so called “knowledge economy”. Gürpınar emphasizes how Veblen criticized earlier theories for treating capital as mainly manifested in material gods and thus neglecting the importance of intangible assets. He then continues to show how Veblen’s critique is central for understanding the potential conflict between ownership and human capital in modern companies. A main argument in Gürpınar’s analysis is that efforts to control intangible assets may have the unintended consequence that employees will be less motivated to “invest” in their own human capital. Another possible consequence could be that companies will replace investment in human capital, like know-how and tacit knowledge, and instead strive to replace skilled employees by technology, which can be more easily protected.
The ensuing dialog involved questions on Veblen and how he related to patents (he did not say much at all specifically about them), and his relation to Marx (he did not like him). The consequences of the current patent regime for skilled workers were also raised in the discussion, both in terms of future developments and by making historical comparisons.
Dr. Erkan Gürpınar is assistant professor and deputy head of the Economics Department at Social Sciences University of Ankara. He received his PhD in Economics from the University of Siena in 2013. https://eb.asbu.edu.tr/en/staff/assist-prof-erkan-gurpinar
Video by LiU communications officer Per Wistbo Nibell. Text by Björn Hammarfelt who also chaired the event.