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Summary

The first comprehensive account of the growing dominance of the intangible economy

Early in the 21st century, a quiet revolution occurred. For the first time, the major developed economies began to invest more in intangible assets, like design, branding, R&D, or software, than in tangible assets, like machinery, buildings, and computers. For all sorts of businesses, from tech firms and pharma companies to coffee shops and gyms, the ability to deploy assets that one can neither see nor touch is increasingly the main source of long-term success.

But this is not just a familiar story of the so-called new economy. Capitalism without Capital shows that the growing importance of intangible assets has also played a role in some of the big economic changes of the last decade. The rise of intangible investment is, Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake argue, an underappreciated cause of phenomena from economic inequality to stagnating productivity. Haskel and Westlake bring together a decade of research on how to measure intangible investment and its impact on national accounts, showing the amount different countries invest in intangibles, how this has changed over time, and the latest thinking on how to assess this. They explore the unusual economic characteristics of intangible investment and discuss how these features make an intangible-rich economy fundamentally different from one based on tangibles.

Capitalism without Capital concludes by presenting three possible scenarios for what the future of an intangible world might be like and by outlining how managers, investors, and policymakers can exploit the characteristics of an intangible age to grow their businesses, portfolios, and economies.

Author bio: Jonathan Haskel is professor of economics at Imperial College London. Stian Westlake is a senior fellow at Nesta, the UK's national foundation for innovation.

©2018 Princeton University Press (P)2018 Recorded Books

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Repetitive and disappointing

The title and reviews led me to believe this was a revolutionary new concept of capitalism without capital. Some kind of gift economy or as yet unimagined world changing piece of genius. But it’s just about intangible vs tangible assets.

Constant repetition of a single point. Tangible assets are tangible. Intangible assets are not. Tangible assets can be locked away. Intangible assets cannot. Etc. Scalability, IP, spillovers, yada yada.

The waffle about how we define and measure GDP and other intellectual concepts is a bean counter’s wet dream. Not my cup of tea.

There are sporadic analyses of companies and countries that make for interesting listening as they shed a tiny light on the concept.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

ok, but too dry sometimes

too many remarks like X shown in a paper... I would rather get a direct statement on what was shown. The book contains brilliant ideas, overviews and examples, but is sometimes overly-hedgy academic and dryily indirect.

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Excellent!

The author excellent describes how intangible assets have become more important in the economies of developed nations, and how individuals, businesses and public institutions might respond to the challenges.

The layout is clearly structured and the authors are very knowledgeable in economics and related fields, and the audiobook is narrated by the always excellent Derek Perkins. Highly recommended

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  • GSS
  • 08-03-18

Fascinating topic

Would you consider the audio edition of Capitalism Without Capital to be better than the print version?

No. Print might work better because of the complexities of the subject

Who was your favorite character and why?

There were no characters. This is a book about economics. You need to refine your algorithms in your software.

Which character – as performed by Derek Perkins – was your favorite?

?? The dollar? Money? What on earth do you mean?

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Only an idiot would make a film of this book. Who thought up this question?

Any additional comments?

You need to work on your software. Your questions are stupid.

28 of 33 people found this review helpful

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  • Pramath Malik
  • 30-12-17

Must read for anyone who works in IP/technology

great book for those who work in intangible area I.e. patents, trademarks, art, music, etc.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Reynir Orn Bachmann Gudmundsson
  • 28-08-18

Excellent insight into this part of the economy

Excellent insight into a valuable part of the economy which is often hidden from sight.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • A. Wenzel
  • 04-10-18

A primer on the economy as it exists today.

Intangible investments affect the economy differently. How companies access capital, invest capital, measure value, and manage resources are critical. Brand and intangibles are where most of the value lives.

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  • Ramin Amirnovin
  • 26-09-18

interesting but slightly dry

very interesting subject on a great analysis of it. repetitious and dry at times. nevertheless worth the read

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  • r
  • 29-03-18

<br />Not groundbreaking but useful. I don't

Not groundbreaking but useful. I don't think I will invest differently but I liked the idea of the industrial Commons

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  • Philo
  • 03-02-18

Who benefits? And how? Nice survey

Accounting does not capture plenty of this. The legal intellectual property framework is maybe a half-step behind the curve. There is a flow of value through the world of business that is sometimes lax and leaky, that has spillovers (author's term) that can be further exploited, but often, grabbed onto by others. Intangibles can be cheaply created, scaled up and deployed, yet they have their deficiencies too. The creator is often not the ultimate profiteer. As a result of the lag of our measuring tools, we may have a blurred view of what our economy is achieving. This author has struck a rich vein. Here is a fine exploration in crisp, current business language.