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Separating contract from governance

  • Harvey S. James Jr

    (Department of Economics, University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT, USA)

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    This paper contends that there is an important distinction between governance structure and contractual form, and that organizational boundaries, defined by governance structures, need not explain contractual form. The basic idea is that governance refers to the general environments and instruments that structure and 'govern' specific terms of trade negotiated in 'contracts'. Problems of verifiability and observability of contractual performance are hypothesized to drive the differential effects on governance structure and contractual form. Specifically, transaction cost factors known to result in employment as a general governance structure do not automatically result in contracts characterized by the payment of fixed-wages. Instead, incentive pay and the delegation of decision-making authority to workers may be preferred by firm owners. The paper proposes that the relationship between a firm and a worker involves a two part decision-making framework in which one choice is the type of governance that structures the second choice regarding the specific characteristics of the contract linking the worker to the firm. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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    Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Managerial and Decision Economics.

    Volume (Year): 21 (2000)
    Issue (Month): 2 ()
    Pages: 47-61

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    Handle: RePEc:wly:mgtdec:v:21:y:2000:i:2:p:47-61
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/jhome/7976

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    1. Philippe Aghion & Jean Tirole, 1994. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Working papers 95-8, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
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    5. Williamson, Oliver E, 1979. "Transaction-Cost Economics: The Governance of Contractural Relations," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 233-61, October.
    6. Oliver D. Hart, 1987. "Incomplete Contracts and the Theory of the Firm," Working papers 448, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    7. Klein, Benjamin & Crawford, Robert G & Alchian, Armen A, 1978. "Vertical Integration, Appropriable Rents, and the Competitive Contracting Process," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 297-326, October.
    8. 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.
    9. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
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    11. Hirao, Yukiko, 1993. "Task Assignment and Agency Structures," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 2(2), pages 299-323, Summer.
    12. Bengt Holmstrom & John Roberts, 1998. "The Boundaries of the Firm Revisited," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 73-94, Fall.
    13. Levinthal, Daniel, 1988. "A survey of agency models of organizations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 153-185, March.
    14. White, William D., 1992. "Information and the control of agents," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 111-117, June.
    15. Laing, Derek, 1994. "Firm Specific Human Capital as an Employer Discipline Device," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 32(1), pages 128-37, January.
    16. Fumas, Vincente Salas, 1993. "Incentives and supervision in hierarchies," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 315-331, August.
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