Accumulation of capital

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Saving of wealth
Uninvested wealth
Misinvestment of surplus capital

The accumulation of capital is the result of saving. This does not necessarily imply abstinence, privation or sacrifice. Saving on the part of the capitalist involves no personal abstinence from immediate consumption, no sacrifice of present gratifications. His immediate expenditure is limited only by his tastes. Often the pleasure of accumulation is greater than that of careless extravagance, and at times the dominant idea is the increase of wealth for the sake of power. In the case of smaller incomes, the subordination of present to future utility often involves real sacrifice, forbearance, prudence and forethought. But even here, there is often the real opportunity to either consume less or produce more. There is also the real possibility that the means are mistaken for the end, and that the mere accumulation of wealth become the reason for life, or that the habit of accumulating, acquired in a time of need, maintains its sway when the need has passed. The process of accumulating money can become addictive. People caught up in this process use it to avoid dealing with being human and confronting human feelings. Often they do not care about money in and of itself; what drives them is the series of actions and interactions involved in accumulating it. The power to save and the will to save may be used by those who have the ability to create inequitable distribution of wealth in which, at its most sordid, the living capital (people's work and conditions and the earth's natural resources) is sacrificed to the dead (in the form of impermanent structures and inherited accumulated wealth).


The growth of capital is similar in many respects to the growth of population. Each is kept in existence, and increases from age to age, not by preservation but by perpetual consumption and reproduction. It is only the value of the capital that remains and grows; the things themselves are ever changing. The capital of a country should be as well invested in the physical, mental, and moral training of its inhabitants as in the accumulation of dead material wealth in the shape of machinery, buildings and the like.


Counter Claim:

To say that capital is the result of accumulation does not mean that it is not consumed. Saving is not necessarily hoarding. All capital is eventually consumed. It fulfills its primary function – the satisfaction of future needs – only in being consumed; but it may not be immediately consumed by the person who saves it. In general, saving is done through the banking system, which increases national industry, hence the productive power and the consuming power of the society.

Broader Problems:
Accumulating capital
Problem Type:
C: Cross-sectoral problems
Date of last update
07.12.2017 – 14:15 CET