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Capital accumulation

gathering or amassing of objects of value; the increase in wealth through concentration; or the creation of wealth
(Redirected from Accumulation of capital)

Capital accumulation (also termed the accumulation of capital) is the dynamic that motivates the pursuit of profit, involving the investment of money or any financial asset with the goal of increasing the initial monetary value of said asset as a financial return whether in the form of profit, rent, interest, royalties or capital gains. The process of capital accumulation forms the basis of capitalism, and is one of the defining characteristics of a capitalist economic system.


The accumulation of capital and misery go hand in hand, concentrated in space. - David Harvey
  • They lived in abysmal misery, yet they had no prospect of a better tomorrow. They existed under capitalism, yet there was no accumulation of capital.
    • Paul A. Baran, The Political Economy Of Growth (1957), Chapter Five, On The Roots Of Backwardness, p. 144
  • Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers' goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals.
  • If, for example, a conspiratorially minded elite is so powerful, has at its fingertips such multiple and delicate instruments with which to fine-tune accumulation, then how can the periodic headlong slides into crisis be explained?
    • David Harvey, The Limits To Capital (2006), Chapter 10, Finance Capital And Its Contradictions, p. 316
  • The accumulation of capital involves the the expansion of value over time.
    • David Harvey, The Limits To Capital (2006), Chapter 11, Theory Of Rent, p. 338
  • The accumulation of capital and misery go hand in hand, concentrated in space.
    • David Harvey, The Limits To Capital (2006), Chapter 13, Crisis In The Space Economy Of Capitalism, p. 418
  • It is more than a little ironic that "capital accumulation" once a rather tendentious Marxian view of a supposed capitalist obsession, should have become - of all things - Wall Street's own slogan.
    • Robert Kuttner, The Economic Illusion (1984), Chapter 2, Capital, p. 51
  • The division of labour is a consequence of the previous accumulation of capital... As the accumulation of capital must have preceded the division of labour, so its subsequent division can only be extended as capital is more and more accumulated. Accumulation and division act and react on each other. The quantity of raw materials which the same number of people can work up increases in a great proportion, as labour comes to be more and more subdivided; and acccording as the operations of each workman are reduced to a greater degree of identity and simplicity, he has, as already explained, a greater chance of discovering machines and processes for facilitating and abridging his labour. The quantity of industry, therefore, not only increases in every country with the increase of the stock or capital which sets it in motion; but, in consequence of this increase, the division of labour becomes extended, new and more powerful implements and machines are invented, and the same quantity of labour is thus made to produce an infinitely greater quantity of commodities
  • We owe to it almost everything that passes under the general name of civilization today. The extraordinary progress of the world since the Middle Ages has not been due to the mere expenditure of human energy, nor even to the flights of human genius, for men had worked hard since the remotest times, and some of them had been of surpassing intellect. No, it has been due to the accumulation of capital. That accumulation permitted labor to be organized economically and on a large scale, and thus greatly enhanced its productiveness. It provided the machinery that gradually diminished human drudgery, and liberated the spirit of the worker, who had formerly been almost indistinguishable from a mule. Most of all, it made possible a longer and better preparation for work, so that every art and handicraft greatly widened its scope and range, and multitudes of new and highly complicated crafts came in.
  • The distribution of wealth is one of today’s most widely discussed and controversial issues. But what do we really know about its evolution over the long term? Do the dynamics of private capital accumulation inevitably lead to the concentration of wealth in ever fewer hands, as Karl Marx believed in the nineteenth century? Or do the balancing forces of growth, competition, and technological progress lead in later stages of development to reduced inequality and greater harmony among the classes, as Simon Kuznets thought in the twentieth century? What do we really know about how wealth and income have evolved since the eighteenth century, and what lessons can we derive from that knowledge for the century now under way?

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