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Capabilities and the Theory of the Firm

  • Nicolai J. Foss

The recent decade has witnessed a strong expansion of work on the firm, both from a capabilities perspective and from a contractual perspective. These two bodies of theories are often thought to be fundamentally different, because their domains of applications are different (knowledge-accumulation vs contracts and incentives). However, we need to integrate propositions from capabilities perspectives with ideas about economic organization (markets, hybrids, firms). This is because only a more unified theory will allow us to understand such issues as the dynamics of the modern corporation, and, more topically, the costs and benefits of outsourcing. I discuss the relations between these two bodies of theories. It is possible to argue in favor of a relation of complementarity between the two and pursue a research strategy on this basis. However, it is also possible two claim that they are rivals. Along this line, it is argued that the capabilities perspective contains propositions about economic organization that are not to be found within the modern Coasian approach to economic organization, and thus may be seen as a distinct emerging perspective on economic organization.

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Paper provided by DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies in its series DRUID Working Papers with number 96-8.

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Date of creation: 1996
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Handle: RePEc:aal:abbswp:96-8
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.druid.dk/

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  1. Brian J. Loasby, 1994. "Organisational Capabilities And Interfirm Relations," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(3), pages 248-265, October.
  2. Matthew Rabin., 1991. "Information and the Control of Productive Assets," Economics Working Papers 91-169, University of California at Berkeley.
  3. Bengt Holmstrom, 1982. "Moral Hazard in Teams," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 324-340, Autumn.
  4. Nicolai J. Foss, 1994. "Why transaction cost economics needs evolutionary economics," Revue d'Économie Industrielle, Programme National Persée, vol. 68(1), pages 7-26.
  5. S.A. Lippman & R.P. Rumelt, 1982. "Uncertain Imitability: An Analysis of Interfirm Differences in Efficiency under Competition," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 418-438, Autumn.
  6. Alchian, Armen A & Demsetz, Harold, 1972. "Production , Information Costs, and Economic Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(5), pages 777-95, December.
  7. Coase, Ronald H., 1990. "Accounting and the theory of the firm," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1-3), pages 3-13, January.
  8. Kirk Monteverde & David J. Teece, 1982. "Supplier Switching Costs and Vertical Integration in the Automobile Industry," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(1), pages 206-213, Spring.
  9. Nicolai J. Foss, 1996. "Firms, Incomplete Contracts and Organizational Learning," DRUID Working Papers 96-2, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
  10. Demsetz, Harold, 1988. "The Theory of the Firm Revisited," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 141-61, Spring.
  11. Foss, Nicolai Juul, 1993. "Theories of the Firm: Contractual and Competence Perspectives," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 3(2), pages 127-44, May.
  12. Richardson, G B, 1972. "The Organisation of Industry," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 82(327), pages 883-96, September.
  13. Teece, David J., 1982. "Towards an economic theory of the multiproduct firm," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 39-63, March.
  14. L. Wade, 1988. "Review," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 58(1), pages 99-100, July.
  15. Cheung, Steven N S, 1983. "The Contractual Nature of the Firm," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(1), pages 1-21, April.
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