Document Type

Encyclopedia Entry

Publication Date


Publication Title

Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Theory


Profit is most often used in contemporary discourse to describe a monetary sum that accrues to the owner of capital that produces a product. The valences of the term “profit” have historically connoted a form of advantage, what Karl Marx saw as “surplus value.” Profit, as such, is distinct from income or wages (remuneration). Under the contemporary economic notion of profit as defined by capital accounting, human relationships are calculable and reflect an assumption of instrumental rationality. From the perspective of methodology, profit (under capitalism) is supported by and in turn supports the notion of a universal rational actor who is maximizing advantage at all times. The term “profit” can also be understood outside of the notion of capital accounting completely, as when people refer to a notion of social profit.