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Thinking about the Firm: A Review of Daniel Spulber's The Theory of the Firm

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  • Oliver Hart

Abstract

In this review, I describe how economists have moved beyond the firm as a black box to incorporate incentives, internal organization, and firm boundaries. I then turn to the way that the theory of the firm is treated in Daniel Spulber's book The Theory of the Firm: Microeconomics with Endogenous Entrepreneurs, Firms, Markets, and Organizations . Spulber's goal is to explain why firms exist, how they are established, and what they contribute to the economy. To accomplish this, Spulber defines a firm to be a transaction institution whose objectives differ from those of its owners. For Spulber, this separation is the key difference between the firm and direct exchange between consumers. I raise questions about whether this is a useful basis for a theory of the firm. (JEL D21)

Suggested Citation

  • Oliver Hart, 2011. "Thinking about the Firm: A Review of Daniel Spulber's The Theory of the Firm," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(1), pages 101-113, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jeclit:v:49:y:2011:i:1:p:101-13
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jel.49.1.101
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Schmitz, Patrick W., 2014. "Optimal ownership of public goods reconsidered," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 125(1), pages 21-24.
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    4. Schmitz, Patrick W., 2021. "On the optimality of outsourcing when vertical integration can mitigate information asymmetries," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 202(C).
    5. Liesbeth Dries & Domenico Dentoni, 2015. "Private sector investments to create market-supporting institutions: The case of Malawian Agricultural Commodity Exchange," Working Papers 2015/08, Maastricht School of Management.
    6. Daniel Lechmann & Claus Schnabel, 2014. "Are the self-employed really jacks-of-all-trades? Testing the assumptions and implications of Lazear’s theory of entrepreneurship with German data," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 42(1), pages 59-76, January.
    7. Lehmann, Erik, 2018. "Corporate governance," UO Working Papers 01-18, University of Augsburg, Chair of Management and Organization.
    8. Müller, Daniel & Schmitz, Patrick W., 2016. "Transaction costs and the property rights approach to the theory of the firm," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 92-107.
    9. Özgür Kıbrıs & Arzu Kıbrıs, 2016. "On surplus-sharing in partnerships," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 47(1), pages 89-111, June.
    10. Gindis, David & Hodgson, Geoffrey M. & Huang, Kainan & Pistor, Katharina, 2017. "Legal institutionalism: Capitalism and the constitutive role of lawAuthor-Name: Deakin, Simon," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 188-200.
    11. Simon Deakin & David Gindis & Geoffrey M. Hodgson & Kainan Huang & Katharina Pistor, 2015. "Legal Institutionalism: Capitalism & the Constitutive Role of Law," Working Papers wp468, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.
    12. Dimitri O. Ledenyov & Viktor O. Ledenyov, 2013. "On the theory of firm in nonlinear dynamic financial and economic systems," Papers 1302.6721, arXiv.org, revised Mar 2013.
    13. Kevin Deane & Sara Stevano & Deborah Johnston, 2019. "Employers’ responses to the HIV epidemic in sub‐Saharan Africa: Revisiting the evidence," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 37(2), pages 245-259, March.
    14. Harold Paredes-Frigolett & Pablo Nachar-Calderón & Carmen Marcuello, 2017. "Modeling the governance of cooperative firms," Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory, Springer, vol. 23(1), pages 122-166, March.
    15. Thomas J. Miceli, 2014. "Transaction-Specific Investments and Organizational Choice: A Coase-to-Coase Theory," Working papers 2014-06, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    16. 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.
    17. Joel Isabirye, 2021. "The Behavioral Theory of the Firm: Foundations, Tenets and Relevance," Technium Social Sciences Journal, Technium Science, vol. 19(1), pages 324-335, May.
    18. Paul Walker, 2015. "Contracts, Entrepreneurs, Market Creation And Judgement: The Contemporary Mainstream Theory Of The Firm In Perspective," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(2), pages 317-338, April.
    19. Paul Walker, 2013. "The ‘Reference Point’ Approach To The Theory Of The Firm: An Introduction," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(4), pages 670-695, September.

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    JEL classification:

    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory

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