AbstractSeventy years ago, Ronald Coase, Nobel Prize in 1991, wrote a seminal paper “The nature of the firm”. This paper is now traditionally considered as the origins of the development of an economic theory of the firm. Before this article, the firm was assimilated to a ‘black box', incorporating inputs and generating outputs. Coase (1937) argued that the firm was more than this purely technical vision: the firm has a concrete existence in the business world, and its internal modes of organisation (especially the coordination of individuals by hierarchies) are different from simple market transactions (coordinated by prices). With this statement, he encouraged economists to elaborate realistic hypotheses on what is a firm, and what a firm does. Today, the research agenda opened up by Coase is far from being completed. Recent works on the economics of the firm converge to show how difficult it is to fully grasp and qualify this subject. The outcome is that the economics of the firm is a combination of different subjects, and no single model or theory captures all elements of the puzzle. This chapter is intended to give an overview of some of the key analytical and empirical issues that are debated today, and especially how the distinction between managerial and entrepreneurial evolves but still firms structures the current research agenda on the economics of the firm.
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Date of creation: 2008
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Publication status: Published, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Thompson Learning (Ed.), 2008, 148-149
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