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the e-factor: towards a theory of electronic capitalism

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Are we now entering the era of a new type of economy, with new rules? What we perceive is more than just an addition to today's economics. By removing the effects of distance, and giving more equal access across nations and classes, networks will effectively reengineer our basic economic equations. Electronic networks can provide access to skills, work and commerce at much lower cost, via electronic markets in jobs, products, services and education. At the same time, they introduce new economic behaviour, as a large enough quantitative change becomes a qualitative change. Electronics and optics enable the networking of human capital, expanding its application and accelerating its enrichment via education. So knowledge-based operations may slowly replace traditional capital-based assets. Consequently, the conventional process for the creation of wealth with its prerequisites for capital investment is revised: economic value in traditional fixed assets is replaced by 'electronic assets'. At the same time, the network effect pushes the market mechanism to its limits, through a step-change in breadth of access, reduced costs of entry and pace of trading. National differences and national markets, all the trappings and devices of commercial locality, are challenged. In this first of two articles, the initial conditions and the evidence for change are examined and the emergence of a new form of economy, or 'tele-economy', is reviewed. Following from this, a view of the form of capitalism driving the economic environment - 'electronic capitalism' - is put forward. The second article, to be published in a forthcoming issue of foresight , examines the consequences and conclusions on assets, wealth accumulation, national players and the benefits and dangers of a tele-economy.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2000

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