When words matter. An analysis of capitalist cultural paradigm in the light of Schumpeter’s predictions

Please cite the paper as:
Germana Bottone, (2024), When words matter. An analysis of capitalist cultural paradigm in the light of Schumpeter’s predictions, World Economics Association (WEA) Conferences, No. 1 2024, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy 80 years later, Looking at capitalism today in light of its past and possible future


The notions of human capital and growth are debated constantly in the economic literature. The limits of these concepts are generally recognised and there is a regular attempt to articulate a more extensive definition of “human capital” and “economic growth”. From one hand, the notion of human capital has been expanded to include all the attributes embodied in individuals, which are relevant to economic activity. On the other hand, the GDP growth rate has been included into the Human Development Index, to take into account different aspects of development such as life expectation, literacy and health, which are not strictly economic but contribute to economic and social progress. Nevertheless, the mainstream economic thought still confine the definitions of human capital and growth within their economic meaning, neglecting the intrinsic complexity of these concepts. This is evident from the words used by the mainstream to term them. Therefore, using an interdisciplinary approach and the conceptual framework of the institutional economics, this paper proposes to change the expression “economic growth” with “progress”, and the expression “human capital” with “knowledge”. Words matter, as they convey a precise worldview and the idea that the accumulation of material wealth is the priority for human beings.


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4 comment

  • Conference administrator says:

    Dear Author,

    Thank you for your valuable input to the debate.

    As you mentioned, by utilising the theoretical framework of the Old Institutionalist, we can confidently state that within the setting of capitalist dynamics, there exists a strong interconnection between the culture of everyday life and the general organisation of society. Furthermore, it is necessary to take into account the historical development of societies, as well as the progressive forces, in order to adjust and revise the norms as needed.

    Based on your study, could you provide further details on the progressive forces that currently might be influential in Western capitalism?

    Maria Alejandra

  • Germana Bottone says:

    Dear Maria, thanks a lot for your comment.
    I read your paper too and I found it of particular interest to me. Actually, we deals with the same subject (how detrimental is the “culture of money”), even if using different arguments and references.

    Once we agree upon what you clearly say in your paper:
    The commodification of money may possible to enlarge the subordination of sociability conditions to the market economy and the social relations become an “accessory of the economic system” (Polanyi 1944:75)

    the question I would like to think about is: how we can overturn this direction.

    “Progressive forces” are defined in Institutional Economics manly as opposed to “ceremonial”, that is forces that make changes possible towards progress. The problem is the definition of progress.
    Defining progress as the way to reach people wellbeing (out of material wealth), social justice and so on, today progressive forces might be all the cultural, political movements that support this point of view (for example green movements such as Green Peace).

    Kind regards,


  • Conference administrator says:

    Dear Germana,

    Thanks for responding to my query about progressive forces.

    Please provide further clarification on the conceptualization of wellbeing and social justice within the framework of a cultural transition.

    Furthermore, what belief system (ideology) might be associated with political movements when considering aspects such as wellbeing and social justice? Which ideology might support this cultural shift?

  • Germana Bottone says:

    Dear Maria,
    In my opinion it is not a matter of “ideology”, instead it is a matter of political system and cultural framework. Using the word of DEWEY (1916 p. 99) :
    an undesirable society, in other words, is one, which internally and externally sets up barriers to free intercourse and communication of experience. A society which makes provision for participation in its good of all its members on equal terms and which secures flexible readjustment of its institutions through interaction of the different forms of associated life is in so far democratic. Such a society must have a type of education, which gives individuals a personal interest in social relationships and control, and the habits of mind, which secure social changes without introducing disorder.
    Democracy is the base for progress. However, a truly democratic society provides equal opportunities to its members and a cultural framework triggering real participation (and above all the capabilities to participate). In such a society people freely decide what wellbeing means for them (I do not believe that someone ought to decide for people what is wellbeing for them, as it has happened and still happens in the dictatorships).
    Ultimately, we should pay a lot of attention to the the education system. The political crisis we are witnessing is also due to the progressive deterioration of education systems all over the world.
    Kind regards,

    see for example:
    Dewey, John (1916). Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: Macmillan.
    Sen, Amartya (1999). Development as Freedom. New York: Random House

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