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Language and the Theory of the Firm

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  • Jacques Cremer
  • Luis Garicano
  • Andrea Prat

Abstract

We characterize efficient technical languages and study their interaction with the scope and structure of organizations. Efficient languages use precise words for frequent events and vague words for unusual ones. A broader organizational scope allows for more synergies to be captured, but reduces within-unit efficiency, since it requires a more generic language. A manager working as specialized translator may also be used to achieve between-unit coordination while maintaining separate languages. Our theory reconciles two recent well-documented phenomena within organizations: the recent increase in information centralization and the reduction in hierarchical centralization.
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Suggested Citation

  • Jacques Cremer & Luis Garicano & Andrea Prat, 2006. "Language and the Theory of the Firm," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000373, UCLA Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:cla:levrem:784828000000000373
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    File URL: http://econ.lse.ac.uk/staff/prat/papers/cgp.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Duncan Simester & Marc Knez, 2002. "Direct and Indirect Bargaining Costs and the Scope of the Firm," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75(2), pages 283-304, April.
    2. Paul Hart & Carol Saunders, 1997. "Power and Trust: Critical Factors in the Adoption and Use of Electronic Data Interchange," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 8(1), pages 23-42, February.
    3. Pierpaolo Battigalli & Giovanni Maggi, 2002. "Rigidity, Discretion, and the Costs of Writing Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 798-817, September.
    4. Patrick Bolton & Mathias Dewatripont, 1994. "The Firm as a Communication Network," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 809-839.
    5. Raghuram G. Rajan & Julie Wulf, 2006. "The Flattening Firm: Evidence from Panel Data on the Changing Nature of Corporate Hierarchies," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(4), pages 759-773, November.
    6. Jacques Cremer, 1980. "A Partial Theory of the Optimal Organization of a Bureaucracy," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 11(2), pages 683-693, Autumn.
    7. Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 2000. "Beyond Computation: Information Technology, Organizational Transformation and Business Performance," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 23-48, Fall.
    8. Birger Wernerfelt, 2004. "Organizational Languages," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(3), pages 461-472, September.
    9. Luis Garicano, 2000. "Hierarchies and the Organization of Knowledge in Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(5), pages 874-904, October.
    10. Radner, Roy, 1993. "The Organization of Decentralized Information Processing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(5), pages 1109-1146, September.
    11. Luis Garicano & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2006. "Organization and Inequality in a Knowledge Economy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1383-1435.
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