City Talks: Capitalism without capital

This month Andrew speaks to the authors of 'Capitalism Without Capital' a new book exploring the concept of the intangible economy.

Podcast published on 19 December 2017

In this episode of City Talks, Andrew is joined by Stian Westlake, advisor to the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, and Jonathan Haskel, Professor of Economics at Imperial College London, to discuss their book ‘Capitalism Without Capital: The Rise of the Intangible Economy’.

The book explores the long-run trend in developed economies such as the UK and USA to invest in ‘intangible’ as opposed to ‘tangible’ assets, such as design and research and development, and looks at the implication this has for our understanding of the economy. In the podcast, Andrew, Stian and Jonathan discuss what it means to invest in tangible, and intangible assets, some examples, and touches on the concerns around measuring the value of such investments, particularly when it comes to firms accessing credit or finance.

The episode also explores how an increase in intangible ‘knowledge-based’ assets such as an algorithm or a successful marketing campaign, is also increasingly likely to occur in an urban environment. Much like urban economists refer to agglomeration economies, the intangible economy is fueled by the way ideas (themselves intangible assets) link to other ideas, forming more innovative practices, more knowledge and higher productivity.

Finally, they grapple with the not-so-simple policy solution for those left-behind places which are not seeing a surge of intangible economic activity, and offer some ways where policy reform might help.

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This episode is part of the Centre for Cities City Talks podcast series, please rate, review and share the episode if you enjoyed it.