There's more to the picture than meets the eye: Measuring tangible and intangible capital in two marginal communities in rural Denmark

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A missing link in economics has been what Veblen in 1908 termed intangible capital. This includes common norms, trust and high levels of cooperative performance. Intangibles are invisible to the eye and not easily measured in quantitative terms. They nevertheless involve visible, socioeconomic outcomes and should therefore rightly be seen as productive, like tangibles. Thus, uneven levels of intangible capital would explain Differential Economic Performance (DEP) between, say, two firms containing exactly the same stock of physical, economic and human capital. Despite this common sense observation, most economists have failed to see that ‘there's more to the picture than meets the eye', as Neil Young once sang. We use statistical, historical and fieldwork data from two Danish, marginal rural communities both rich on intangible capital. This to show how intangible capital in the form of social, organisational and cultural capital is accumulated and utilised in situ, at the microlevel. We suggest that the difference between these two, very similar communities should be explained in their varying ability to utilise local stocks of tangible and intangible capital. Drawing on seminal ideas from Bourdieu [The forms of capital. In: Richardson, J.G. (Ed.) Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. Greenwood Press, New York, Westport, CT and London, 1986, pp. 241-58] and the DORA project [Bryden, Differential economic performance in rural areas. In: International Conference on Rural Communities and Identities in the Global Millennium. Malpasino University College, Nainamo, BC, Canada, 2000], we want to develop a ‘total capital' assessment tool for mapping and measuring socioeconomic development in marginal rural communities. In this way, we hope to count in ‘all' capital as Schultz [Investment in human capital. In: Kiker, B.F. (Ed.) Investment in Human Capital. Columbia, 1971, pp. 3-21] prophesised. This in order to explain what we term Differential Local Development (DLD), where ‘good', sustainable development is associated with high economic performance and increase in population.
TidsskriftJournal of Rural Studies
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)453-471
Antal sider19
StatusUdgivet - 2007


  • Udkantsområder i Danmark
  • Håndgribelige og uhåndgribelige former for kapital
  • Lokale forskelle i økonomisk udvikling
  • Fysisk kapital
  • Naturkapital
  • Social kapital
  • Organisatorisk kapital
  • Kulturel kapital
  • Neo-kapital teori


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