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L'insaisissable entreprise de l'économie et du droit

Listed author(s):
  • Thierry Kirat
  • Marie-Claire Villeval

[eng] The concept of firm is central in current theoretical and methodological developments in economic theory. The analysis of the contractual and institutional nature of the firm, which constitutes the purpose of this article, requires to refer to contractarian theories and New Institutional Economics. Based on the notions of "governance structure" and "nexus of treaties", these theories however tend to limit the collective dimensions of the firm to inter-individual relationships. As a consequence, the institutional nature of the firm is reduced to a mere collection of contracts. The search for the institutional foundations of the firm article leads to investigate the American Old Institutional Economics and current approaches to institutions and firm. The theoretical analyses of the firm are tested at a threefold level. —Can the firm be reduced to a nexus of inter-individual contracts? As a matter of fact, one can distinguish between functional (i.e.: the firm matters because it assumes functions such as coordination) and institutional viewpoints (i.e.: the firm matters as a central institution of capitalism). —If coordination reveals to be a rule governed activity, one can legitimely question the nature and significance of these rules, notably judicial ones. The firm, as a social institution, relatively detached from individual participants, provides normative patterns of behaviour largely based on the legal provision of rules. In Law, the same debate between contractarian and institutional approaches to the firm has occured, that could be fruitfully confronted to the economic debate. — The forms and the boundaries of enterprises are embedded in social and historical contexts. Considering the firm as being involved in a legal- economic nexus leads to question the processes by which the organisation and the regulation of the nexus evolve. From a theoretical survey of contractarian, evolutionary and institutional analyses of the firm, the authors proceed to an examination of the opportunities of cross-fertilization between Law and Economics for building a theoretical approach to the firm as a specific social institution. [fre] Les développements théoriques et méthodologiques en économie accordent désormais une place centrale à l'entreprise. La réflexion sur la nature contractuelle et institutionnelle de l'entreprise, qui constitue l'objet central de cet article, invite à mobiliser notamment les théories contractualistes et la Nouvelle Economie Institutionnelle. Mettant en avant les notions de faisceau de contrats et de structure de gouvernance, ces approches tendent toutefois à résumer les dimensions collectives de la firme à un ensemble de relations inter-individuelles. La nature institutionnelle de la firme est alors réduite à une collection de contrats centralisés. La recherche de ces fondements institutionnels de l'entreprise conduit alors à interroger la pensée institutionnaliste américaine du début du siècle et les analyses françaises contemporaines. Les conceptions théoriques de l'entreprise sont éprouvées à un triple niveau. —La firme peut-elle se réduire à un faisceau de contrats interindividuels? On peut en effet distinguer des approches fonctionnelles (la firme est analysée à travers les fonctions qu'elle assume en termes de coordination) et des approches institutionnelles (la firme comme institution centrale du capitalisme). —Penser la coordination comme une activité fondée sur des règles appelle une réflexion sur la nature de ces règles. La firme est analysable comme une institution sociale qui fournit des modes normatifs de comportement largement fondés sur des règles juridiques. Or, le droit a connu également un débat entre approches contractualistes et approches institution- nalistes de l'entreprise qu'il est intéressant de confronter au débat économique. —Les formes et les frontières de la firme sont encastrées dans des contextes sociaux et historiques. Cet encastrement de la firme dans un ensemble économico-juridique interroge les processus par lesquels l'organisation et la régulation de cet ensemble se transforment. S'appuyant sur une revue des analyses contractualistes, évolutionnistes et institutionnalistes de la firme, les auteurs examinent les opportunités d'une confrontation entre droit et économie pour étayer une approche théorique de la firme comme institution sociale singulière.

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Article provided by Programme National Persée in its journal Revue française d'économie.

Volume (Year): 10 (1995)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 157-203

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Handle: RePEc:prs:rfreco:rfeco_0769-0479_1995_num_10_4_993
Note: DOI:10.3406/rfeco.1995.993
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