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The ultimate control group

  • Dow, Gregory K.

Empirical research on the organization of firms requires that firms be classified on the basis of their control structures. This should be done in a way that can potentially be made operational. It is easy to identify the ultimate controller of a hierarchical organization, and the literature has largely focused on this case. But many organizational structures mix hierarchy with collective choice procedures such as voting, or use circular structures under which superiors are accountable to their subordinates. I develop some analytic machinery that can be used to map the authority structures of such organizations, and show that under mild restrictions there is a well-defined ultimate control group. The results are consistent with common intuitions about the nature of control in some familiar economic settings.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 49 (2002)
Issue (Month): 1 (September)
Pages: 39-49

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:49:y:2002:i:1:p:39-49
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

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  1. Raaj Kumar Sah & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1984. "The Architecture of Economic Systems: Hierarchies and Polyarchies," NBER Working Papers 1334, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Hart, Oliver D. & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Scholarly Articles 3448675, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Bowles, Samuel & Gintis, Herbert, 1993. "A Political and Economic Case for the Democratic Enterprise," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(01), pages 75-100, April.
  4. Philippe Aghion & Jean Tirole, 1994. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Working papers 95-8, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  5. Katzner, Donald W., 1992. "The structure of authority in the firm," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 41-67, September.
  6. Raaj Kumar Sah, 1991. "Fallibility in Human Organizations and Political Systems," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 67-88, Spring.
  7. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
  8. Gregory K. Dow, 2000. "Allocating Control Over Firms: Stock Markets Versus Membership Markets," Discussion Papers dp00-03, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University, revised Feb 2000.
  9. Dow, G.L., 1999. "On the Neutrality of Asset Ownership for Work Incentives," Discussion Papers dp99-1, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.
  10. Dow, Gregory K. & Putterman, Louis, 2000. "Why capital suppliers (usually) hire workers: what we know and what we need to know," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 319-336, November.
  11. Qian, Yingyi, 1994. "Incentives and Loss of Control in an Optimal Hierarchy," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 527-44, July.
  12. Baker, George & Gibbons, Robert & Murphy, Kevin J, 1999. "Informal Authority in Organizations," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 56-73, April.
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