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Where there is economics, there is morality

ZHANG HAISHAN | 2017-04-20
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

The Theory of Moral Capital

Author: Wang Xiaoxi
Publisher: Yilin Press



As early as the 1990s, the author, Wang Xiaoxi, a professor from Nanjing Normal University, put forth the concept of moral capital. After two decades of effort, Wang published his new work, The Theory of Moral Capital, and systematically elaborated on the concept.

In this book, Wang states that moral capital refers to moral ideas, rules and values that can work as productive resources. The book also discusses the ability of morally good behavior to promote value in production. At the same time, the book indicates that moral capital, or morality of capital, has its own logical boundaries. The concept is neither pan-moralism nor expressing the idea that morality is the key to everything. Rather, the book states than ideas, values, systems, rational relationships, moral behavior and other moral concepts objectively exist in the production process as a production factor. The domain of production (economic) activities is the real boundary where moral capital plays its role. On this basis, Wang points out in particular that the “capital” in the concept is not the classical capital concept used and discussed by Marx, but the capital as a production factor under the “capital general” perspective. The “capital” in Marx’s political economy is a kind of “capital particularity” under certain social and historical conditions, which is synonymous to “immoral.”

Also, the book demonstrates how morality could parlay value, or to transform morality into capital. Wang argued that as capital, or a spiritual capital element, morality is irreplaceable in parlaying value in corporate management. In other words, if companies want to get more profit and better benefits, they cannot ignore the unique role of morality. He believes that morality is the core spiritual element of productivity, the soul to humanistic production design and manufacturing, the essential standard to shorten the production times, the guidance or restraint to rational consumption, the source of market credibility, the premise for Internet survival and development, and the key to corporate cohesion.

Moreover, in fact, morality on the one hand acts as a means of profit for capital, while on the other is “inherently critical” to capital. The former emphasizes gaining more profit or surplus value, the latter refers to the fact that while pursuing surplus value, capital objectively shapes people. These enhanced material and spiritual aspects of humanity that come along with better shaped people will in turn become a constraint on the negative effects of capital, that is, “inward criticism” of capital.

In addition, Wang adopted three logically progressive expressions, namely “moral ontology,” “moral nature” and “moral truth,” to justify morality’s nature as not only a scientific concept and practical idealism, but also the union of idea, form and deed. Wang further outlines economic propositions such as the “real economy,” “Pareto nautical” and “prisoner’s dilemma,” to prove that economics and morality are two aspects of a social phenomenon. They are inseparable, and where there are economic activities, there is morality.