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  Although commonly treated by orthodox economists as a factor of production or more simply as \'money\', capital is better understood as \'expanding social value\'. The latter conception, derived from Marx, has occupied the attention of critical theorists in economic geography since the early 1970s (see Harvey, 1973). Capital is a social relation rather than a thing, and it can take various material forms; it can be invested as money, consumed as raw material, expended as wages for labour, operated as machinery and other means of production, or sold as commodities. Most succinctly, capital is \'value in motion\' (Marx, 1987, p. 149), insofar as it is social value that expands in the production process (see accumulation). Marx (1987, ch. 4) describes the cyclical conversion from money into labour power, raw materials and commodities, and then back into money again, as the \'general formula of capital\' (cf. Marxian economics). In all its forms, capital is the product of social labour performed in the production of commodities. Increasingly though, some have argued that the production of capital has recently become more distanced from the actual production of commodities as certain technologies enable whole sub-economies to form around the manipulation of information (Castells, 1996).

Historically, capital came to define the mode of production at the point when labour itself became commodified as a form of capital. Thereafter the production of surplus value and the reproduction of capital was organized first and foremost as an economic result of market exchange rather than directly through social and political means. In the resulting capitalist society (see capitalism), capital is owned and controlled by a specific social class, the capitalist class, which profits from the expansion of capital and, by dint of its ownership of capital, forms a ruling class.

Different individual capitals (i.e. firms, individual capitalists, etc.) occupy different niches in the cynical reproduction of capital (see circuit of capital) and are associated with different factions of the capitalist class. Financial, industrial, and rentier capital all represent specific interests within the capitalist class, and the role of the state is in part to mediate these intra-capitalist interests as well as to regulate class conflict between capital and labour.

Geographical research on capital has largely focused on the ways in which the social power and economic rationale of capital translate into systematic geographical patterns of development and underdevelopment (see uneven development), environmental degradation, and diverse experiences of local change (Harvey, 1982; Dunford and Perrins, 1983). (NS)

References Castells, M. 1996: The rise of the network society. Volume 1. Oxford: Blackwell. Dunford, M. and Perrins, D. 1983: The arena of capital. London: Macmillan. Harvey, D. 1973: Social justice and the city. London: Edward Arnold. Harvey, D. 1982: The limits to capital. Oxford: Blackwell. Marx, K. 1987: Capital, volume I. New York: International Publishers, see esp. ch. IV.



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