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A Naturalistic Approach to the Theory of the Firm: The Role of Cooperation and Cultural Evolution

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  • Christian Cordes

    ()

  • Peter J. Richerson
  • Richard McElreath
  • Pontus Strimling

Abstract

One reason why firms exist, this paper argues, is because they are suitable organizations within which cooperative production systems based on human social predispositions can evolve. In addition, we show how an entrepreneur – given these predispositions – can shape human behavior within a firm. To illustrate these processes, we will present a model that depicts how the biased transmission of cultural contents via social learning processes within the firm influence employees’ behavior and the performance of the firm. These biases can be traced back to evolved social predispositions. Humans lived in tribal scale social systems based on significant amounts of intra- and even intergroup cooperation for tens if not a few hundred thousand years before the first complex societies arose. Firms rest upon the social psychology originally evolved for tribal life. We also relate our conclusions to empirical evidence on the performance and size of different kinds of organizations. Modern organizations have functions rather different from ancient tribes, leading to friction between our social predispositions and organization goals. Firms that manage to reduce this friction will tend to function better.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group in its series Papers on Economics and Evolution with number 2006-06.

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Length: 23 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2006-06

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Keywords: Theory of the Firm; Cultural Evolution; Entrepreneurship; Firm Performance; Cooperation;

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References

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Carmen Marcuello & Pablo Nachar-Calderón, 2012. "Sociedad cooperativa y socio cooperativo: propuesta de sus funciones objetivo," Documentos de Trabajo dt2012-02, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales, Universidad de Zaragoza.
  2. van den Bergh, Jeroen C.J.M. & Gowdy, John M., 2009. "A group selection perspective on economic behavior, institutions and organizations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 1-20, October.
  3. Cordes, Christian & Richerson, Peter J. & Schwesinger, Georg, 2010. "How corporate cultures coevolve with the business environment: The case of firm growth crises and industry evolution," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 465-480, December.
  4. Johann Peter Murmann & Jenny Korn & Hagen Worch, 2014. "How Fast Can Firms Grow?," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), Justus-Liebig University Giessen, Department of Statistics and Economics, vol. 234(2-3), pages 210-233, April.
  5. Christian Cordes, 2007. "Emergent Cultural Phenomena and their Cognitive Foundations," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2007-22, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group.
  6. Christian Cordes & Peter J. Richerson & Georg Schwesinger, 2011. "A Corporation's Culture as an Impetus for Spinoffs and a Driving Force of Industry Evolution," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2011-11, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group.

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