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Intellectual capital: object or process?

Teresita Arenas (Department of Industry, Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, Vitacura, Chile)
Leonardo Lavanderos (Relational Theory and Knowledge Systems Study Center, Corporación SINTESYS, Providencia, Chile)

Journal of Intellectual Capital

ISSN: 1469-1930

Article publication date: 18 January 2008




The purpose of this paper is to analyze the epistemological foundations associated with the concept of IC. Different researchers on intellectual capital (IC) agree on the issue that at present, knowledge generates sustainable competitive advantage. However, the distinction between the theoretical perspective and its practical application is not yet clear. Seemingly, this dissociation may be explained by the absence of an epistemological analysis related to IC, which accounts for the low number of pertinent specific publications.


This paper analyzes the named epistemological foundations associated with the concept of IC, from the point of view of the cognitive sciences, as well as its consequences in the design of methods and indicators of evaluation. The analysis employed is based on the cognitive groundwork of the representational and non‐representational schools linked to the primeval concepts which thus far support the definition of IC.


The cognitive sciences contribute guidance in the face of the implications of including IC within the domain of representation and that of non‐representation. The first operates in order to recover external elements and to project internal ones, making IC unviable as a process, and inevitably reduces it to the account of objects. In the second case, enactment ends up being incomplete due to the fact that it maintains the observer‐setting duality, which makes it improbable to understand IC as a network relational process.


The results enable the identification of new lines of development, which clarify and make explicit its epistemological foundations, but which differ from the prevailing ones.



Arenas, T. and Lavanderos, L. (2008), "Intellectual capital: object or process?", Journal of Intellectual Capital, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 77-85.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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