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A naturalistic approach to the theory of the firm: The role of cooperation and cultural evolution

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  • Cordes, Christian
  • Richerson, Peter J.
  • McElreath, Richard
  • Strimling, Pontus

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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  • Cordes, Christian & Richerson, Peter J. & McElreath, Richard & Strimling, Pontus, 2008. "A naturalistic approach to the theory of the firm: The role of cooperation and cultural evolution," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 125-139, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:68:y:2008:i:1:p:125-139
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Virgile Chassagnon, 2014. "Toward a Social Ontology of the Firm: Reconstitution, Organizing Entity, Institution, Social Emergence and Power," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 124(2), pages 197-208, October.
    2. Rita YI MAN LI, 2008. "Nature Of The Firm: A Study On Developers In China And Hong Kong," Journal of Applied Economic Sciences, Spiru Haret University, Faculty of Financial Management and Accounting Craiova, vol. 3(4(6)_Wint).
    3. Schwesinger, Georg & Müller, Stephan & Lundan, Sarianna M., 2016. "Governance Structures, Cultural Distance, and Socialization Dynamics: Further Challenges for the Modern Corporation," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145907, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    4. 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.
    5. Safarzynska, Karolina & van den Bergh, Jeroen C.J.M., 2010. "Evolving power and environmental policy: Explaining institutional change with group selection," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(4), pages 743-752, February.
    6. 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.
    7. Fabrizio Panebianco, 2016. "The role of persuasion in cultural evolution dynamics," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 63(3), pages 233-258, September.
    8. Christian Cordes, 2012. "Emergent Cultural Phenomena and their Cognitive Foundations," Chapters,in: Evolution, Organization and Economic Behavior, chapter 3 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    9. Christian Schubert, 2014. "“Generalized Darwinism” and the quest for an evolutionary theory of policy-making," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 479-513, July.
    10. Murmann Johann Peter & Korn Jenny & Worch Hagen, 2014. "How Fast Can Firms Grow?," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 234(2-3), pages 210-233, April.
    11. Christian Cordes & Peter Richerson & Georg Schwesinger, 2014. "A corporation’s culture as an impetus for spinoffs and a driving force of industry evolution," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 689-712, July.
    12. Su, Tong-Yaa, 2016. "Competition between Firms in Economic Evolution: Its Characteristics and Differences to the Biological Sphere," MPRA Paper 72756, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. 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.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L25 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Performance
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • M13 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - New Firms; Startups
    • M14 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Corporate Culture; Diversity; Social Responsibility
    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis

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