Following Marx and Engels' identification of the “essential condition of capital”, the purpose of this paper is to begin an initial critical exploration of the essential condition of intellectual capital, particularly the ownership rights of labour.
Adopting a critically modernist stance on unitarist HR and OB discourse, and contextualised within a background on the stock option phenomenon and recent accounting regulation, the paper argues that the fundamental nature of the capital‐labour relation continues resiliently into the IC labour (intellectual capital‐labour) relation.
There is strong evidence that broad‐based employee stock options (ESOPs) have become institutionalised in certain firms and sectors – but the future of such schemes is very uncertain (post 2005 accounting regulation). Overly unitarist HR/OB arguments are challenged here with empirical evidence on capital's more latently strategic purposes such as conserving cash, reducing reported accounting expense in order to boost reported earnings, deferring taxes, and attracting, retaining and exploiting key elements of labour.
Research supports the positive benefits of broad‐based employee stock ownership schemes. Further research on the benefits of such schemes and the reasons why they are or are not implemented is now required.
From the perspective of labour, nothing appears to have really changed (yet) in terms of the essential condition of intellectual capital.
This paper explicitly raises the issue of the ownership rights of labour to intellectual capital.
O'Donnell, D., Tracey, M., Bo Henriksen, L., Bontis, N., Cleary, P., Kennedy, T. and O'Regan, P. (2006), "On the “essential condition” of intellectual capital: labour!", Journal of Intellectual Capital, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 111-128. https://doi.org/10.1108/14691930610639804Download as .RIS
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