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Ethical Capital and People’s Roles in it Essay

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Updated: May 8th, 2019


In the 19th and 20th century people who were successful in business and political world had one thing in common, they all appreciated and invested a lot in physical capital.

During those times capital was any form of assets or finances but in the modern world things have changes and the definition of capital has broadened to not only including assets and finances but also the human and ethical aspects which constitute the human capital and ethical capital respectively. Human capital involves the skills and knowledge that individuals acquire from education and experiences.

Ethical capital on the other hand can be defined as the practices, tools, and techniques of refining and defining values that an organization possesses (Harvard Business review, pp 4). In other words ethical capital goes beyond the monetary value and involves the practices and techniques of creating values.

This essay primarily discusses peoples’ roles, understanding and perception, towards ethical capital in different societies and disciplines. It majors on the Indian community and their cultural religious and political beliefs that either help in building or destroying ethical capital in India. We will also briefly look into the Russian post soviet era and a new and invention in the medical field and their contributions towards ethical capital.

Ethical Capital in the Indian Society

According to a research done by Jacob Copeman (2-3), Indians are never willing to voluntarily donate their blood to blood banks, in other word they only donate with a clear objective in mind for instance donating blood for close relatives, friend or for certain rituals either religious or political. There were made to believe that one looses a lot of energy after donating blood.

This is the main reason why most Indians drink milk after donating blood to replenish the lost energy. Also in most parts of south Asia Impotence is linked with strength. This belief makes everyone not willing to ‘sacrifice’ his blood to save the life of others in fear of becoming weak hence becoming impotent.

Going back to the definition of ethical capital it is clear that since time immemorial the Indian society has had the wrong perception of some ethical issues in relation to blood donation.

The caste system has also contributed to this situation in that Indians believe that a person’s body parts, clothes and everything he owns can act as conduits of personal and spiritual qualities of that person since they possessed with them.

Blood donation and transfusion is also viewed in this perspective and no one especially in the higher castes wants to acquire the personality or spirit of a person from a lower caste through donated or transfused blood (Jacob 3). This complies with the “Purity and Pollution” belief of Sikh and Hindu revivalist organizations.

These organizations organize blood donation events all over India as part of ‘seva’ (service) to purify oneself by removing some of the “senile blood” to allow formation of new and pure blood. As much as this groups help in donating blood they also discourage patients from accepting the blood.

They believe that the donated “senile blood” is polluted with sins and impurities of the donor. In a nut shell this belief does not actually hinder blood collection but limits some needy patients from receiving donated blood in fear of being polluted by it (Jacob 3).

This helps in building and destroying ethical capital in India but in my opinion it builds more than it destroys because comparing the number of people who donate and those who benefit from the donations to the ones who refuse it the donors and beneficiaries are more hence they build more than they destroy ethical capital.

Jacob also acknowledges Addlakha’s work where he explains how the media is the main tool that can be effectively used in building a strong ethical capital base in the Indian population this is due to the fact that it assumes and performs several roles as he quoted “it performs the role of commentator, communicator, educator and watchdog during crisis” (Addlakha 154).

Some non-governmental organizations and other humanitarian organizations e.g. the Red Cross society in India have been advocating for a stronger ethical capital base by trying to change the attitude and perception of the public towards blood donation.

They have come up with slogans which are written on posters and websites e.g. “A blood donor has no equal” and “the desire to share something of oneself is what singles out a blood donor from the others” (Jacob 5). This enables more people to accept blood donation as a good thing since the people advocating for it are known to be of good motive e.g. the Red Cross society.

In my opinion deified politicians e.g. Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi (Jacob 6) help in building ethical capital when their deaths are commemorated. People donate blood in respect to this martyrs who died for their countries.

This political rituals help in uniting people from all over the country to ‘shed’ (donated) blood in their remembrance. People consider it a good action and as a result they volunteer in large numbers hence ethical capital is built.

The soviet and Post soviet era

According to Rivkin-Fish (48) In the Soviet period in Russia paying physicians for medical care was an illegal and immoral action in that doctors who asked for any form of payment were viewed as the selfish, immoral and most corrupt. This changed in the post soviet Russia and doctors were allowed to accept and demand for payments for their expertise and time.

This situation complies with definition of capital as discussed earlier in this essay i.e. during the time when physicians were not allowed to demand for payment for their services the ethical were not relevant when considering capital as opposed to the modern world, post soviet Russia, where it is considered and appreciated.

In other words ethical capital has been is appreciated in post soviet Russia though it is facing certain challenges as discussed below.

People destroy the little traces of ethical capital in our modern society ignorantly without realizing by asking for favors from acquaintances. Rivkin-Fish gives an example of her friend, Valya, who earns favors from friends for medical checkup. She pays for the services through a friend who introduced her to the doctor and not through the hospital administration as required.

Some things may appear right to us but ethically they are not, for instance Valya gives her friend $150 and a few bottles of vodka as payment for the medical services which is literary right but ethically its wrong.

She was supposed to pay through the cashier where she would obtain a receipt. She suggests that “paying for medical services is a moral action that conveys respect and recognition for professionals’ attention and expertise” (Rivkin-Fish 48). She criticizes the traditional modes of operation of the soviet era yet she offers the doctor payments directly which in real sense is a form of bribery.

This proves to us that the same people who are in the frontline of fighting corruption are the same ones who engage in them ignorantly and as you know in a corrupt society ethical capital is usually very minimal.

Umbilical cord blood

According to Waldby (2006, 55) “Umbilical cord blood has proved an effective substitute for bone marrow in the treatment of blood disorders.” This has led to the establishment and development of both public and private cord blood banking facilities.

Bioethicists and other medical professionals advocating for ethical capital condemn private cord blood banking by claiming that it converts valuable clinical cord blood banks into privately owned and managed accounts which are of no help to the public and they can only selfishly benefit only the owners.

They also claim that the great demand and value for cord blood may lead to the risk of thee medical staff shifting their attention from the mother and child to the cord blood (Waldby, 59-60”). By so doing the life of both the mother and the child are put to risk by the profit minded staff and this is against doctors’ work ethics hence it is against the ethical capital in the medical world.


As we have seen in the above discussed issues establishment of a strong ethical in any form of society requires critical evaluation of all actions and decisions with an aim of determining whether it is ethically right or wrong because ethics have proved to have a great influence to the success of any organization or society.

Works Cited

Addlakha, Renu. “State Legitimacy and Social Suffering in a Modern Epidemic: A Case Study of Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever in Delhi.” Contributions to Indian Sociology Volume 35, [2001], Issue 2: p 154.

Harvard Business review. “Ethical Capital Is Capitalism’s New Cornerstone” [2010]. pp4. Retrieved from

Jacob, Copeman. “BLOOD WILL HAVE BLOOD: A Study in Indian Political Ritual” Social Analysis Volume 48, [2004]. Issue 3, p 2-6.

Rivkin-Fish, Michele. “Bribes, Gifts and Unofficial payments: Rethinking Corruption in post-Soviet Russian Health Care”. Corruption: Anthropological Perspectives, ed. Pluto press, [2005]. P 47-48.

Waldby, Catherine. “Umbilical Cord Blood: From Social Gift to Venture Capital” Sydney: The University of New South Wales, School of Sociology, 2006. p 55-60.

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