4Capital and Performance


By Dr. Alex Liu






Defining Material Capital

Material capital refers to the economic resources available to individuals, organizations, or nations that are utilized in the production of goods and services. It encompasses both physical objects (like machinery, buildings, and infrastructure) and financial resources (such as cash, investments, and financial instruments). Material capital is integral to economic processes, serving as a foundation for creating wealth and facilitating economic activities.

Material Assets: A Subset of Material Capital

Material assets are a subset of material capital and refer specifically to tangible, physical resources like land, buildings, equipment, and inventory. These assets are crucial as they can be directly used or converted into other forms of capital. They are characterized by their physical form and their utility in the production process or their ability to be sold or exchanged.

Difference Between Material Capital and Material Assets

The key difference lies in scope and function:

Material Capital: A broader term that includes both material assets (tangible) and financial resources (intangible). It represents the overall economic strength or capability of an entity.

Material Assets: Specifically refers to tangible, physical resources owned by an individual or entity.

Evolution of Material Capital

From Tangible to Intangible: Historically, material capital was primarily tangible - land, buildings, and physical money. With the advent of financial systems, it expanded to include intangible elements like stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments.

Technology and Digitalization: The digital era brought further change, with digital assets and electronic financial resources becoming integral to material capital. This includes digital infrastructures and online financial assets, although their weight in the broader definition of material capital is less dominant compared to traditional forms.

Interdependence with Other Capitals: Material capital's value can be influenced by intellectual, social, and even spiritual capitals. For instance, a brand's value (a material asset) can significantly depend on intellectual capital (innovations, patents) and social capital (customer loyalty, brand reputation).

Valuation of Material Assets

The valuation of material assets is often complex and multifaceted. It is not only determined by the physical attributes of the asset but also by its potential to generate income, its market demand, and sometimes its interrelation with ownership of other assets. For example, the value of real estate is not just in its physical structure but also in its location, market trends, and its potential for future development.


Material capital, encompassing both tangible material assets and intangible financial resources, is a dynamic and evolving concept. Its evolution from purely tangible assets to a mix of physical and digital resources reflects the changing landscape of economies and technologies. Understanding this evolution, and the interplay between different forms of capital, is crucial for comprehensively grasping the nature of economic resources and their impact on wealth creation and economic development. The valuation of material assets, influenced by various factors, highlights the complexity and interconnectivity of the different forms of capital in our modern economy,

4Capital => life satifaction of individuals 


4Capital => organizational performance 


4Capital => country development

Note: The work presented here includes research conducted by Dr. Alex Liu at Stanford University and that for the Global Entrepreneurship Monitoring initiative. Dr. Alex Liu greatly benefited from valuable discussions with several accomplished authors, including Danah Zohar, author of 'Spiritual Capital'; Ernie Chu, author of 'Soul Currency'; Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, author of 'Spiritual Enterprise'; and Lawrence M. Miller, author of 'The New Capitalism'.

Note: To cite us, please write "Liu, Alex. 4Capital and Performance, RM Publishing, 2008, ResearchMethods.org, https://www.researchmethods.org/4capital.htm.


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