There is more to contracts than incompleteness: a review and assessment of empirical research on inter-firm contract design
This paper aims at achieving a greater understanding of how contracts operate in practice through a review of recent empirical literature on inter-firm contract design. Our focus on the structure of contractual agreements differentiates this review from others that dedicated ample coverage also to the antecedents of the decision to contract and of the choice of contracting versus integration. Our framework develops Stinchcombe’s (Organization Theory and Project Management, 1985) hypothesis that contracts are an organizational phenomenon. This allows us to uncover considerable but unevenly distributed evidence on a number of organizational processes formalized in relational contracts, which partially overlap with the processes that are observed in integrated organizations. It also enables us to describe contracts in terms of a larger number of dimensions than is commonly appreciated. The paper summarizes the evidence by proposing a general and tentative framework to guide the design of relational contracts, discusses a number of lingering issues, and outlines directions for further research on contracts as an organizational phenomenon. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007
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