La nature de la firme coase

Pages: 45 (11026 mots) Publié le: 24 février 2011
Journal of Management and Governance 5: 331–351, 2001. © 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.


The Nature of the Firm – Static versus Developmental Interpretations
Max Planck Institute for Research into Economic Systems, Evolutionary Economics Unit, Kahlaische Str. 10, D-07745 Jena, Germany (E-mail:; Abstract. Different from the prevailing static perspective in the theory of the firm, a developmental approach focuses on processes of change in firm organizations (rather than on states and their properties). Although business history provides ample evidence for systematic organizational change, few contributions in the literature take a developmental viewpoint and offer explanationsfor the endogenous processes of change. To contrast static and developmental interpretations, the paper identifies three paradigmatic questions for each of them. Their comparison sheds some new light on the theory of the firm and draws attention to the neglected entrepreneurial role in organizational change.

1. Introduction The attempt of the new institutionalist research program to explain the“nature” of the firm has strongly influenced modern economic thinking about business organizations. Because the neoclassical theory of the price mechanism was virtually silent about why there are firms at all (Demsetz, 1991), a huge literature emerged that, following Coase’s lead, tried to explain why there are two alternative ways of coordinating the division of labor: markets and firms. The reasonsoffered for why economic agents rely on markets in some circumstances and in others use the organizational form of the firm revolve around the differences between firms and markets, with respect to (transaction) costs and the controlling of contractual hazard (see Holmström and Tirole, 1989; Foss, 2000 for surveys). In pursuit of the new institutionalist program, economic theorizing was attracted tothe problems of governance – problems that had interested organization and management science for decades – and started a systematic inquiry into the incentive problems in contractual relations. Yet differences in incentive and transaction costs are not the only reasons why there are different forms of economic organization. For a full understanding of the “nature” of the firm, other differencesbetween markets and firms are also important. For example, the way in which knowledge can be transmitted, utilized, and, most notably, accumulated is very different in markets and firms. Similarly, cognitive, motivational, and emotional attitudes develop in different ways in the



continuing interactions between the members of a firm on the one hand, and betweenthe participants in market transactions on the other hand. The differences may be very important for an agent – the entrepreneur – who has to invest time, effort, and private wealth into building up a business on the basis of one or the other organizational forms. In general, the development of firms as organizations – their growth and aging process over time – is very different from, though notindependent of, the evolution of the markets in which the firms operate. Organizational forms are not given, unchanging entities. Firms undergo significant organizational changes during their life span (Chandler, 1990, 1992). A newly-established, small entrepreneurial business clearly differs from a large, well-established corporation although the roots of the latter can usually be traced back to theformer type. However, development, or any other time-dependent aspects of real firms do not play much of a role in the new, institutionalist research program. Although the scope of economic theorizing has been extended to non-market institutions, the static method and the optimization-cum-equilibrium-based interpretation of neoclassical economics have been preserved (with a notable, early...
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