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Incomplete Contracts and Firm Boundaries: New Directions

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  • Dessein, Wouter

Abstract

The seminal work by Grossman and Hart (1986) made the study of firm boundaries susceptible to formal economic analysis, and illuminated an important role for markets in providing incentives. In this essay, I discuss some new directions that the literature has taken since. As a central challenge, I identify the need to provide a formal theory of the firm in which managerial direction and bureaucratic decision-making play a key role. Merging a number of existing incomplete contracting models, I propose two approaches with very different contracting assumptions. As in transaction cost economics, a central element in those theories is the presence of a central office who directs and coordinates the actions of subordinates. More novel, I highlight the superior ability of non-integrated firms to adapt to a changing environment.

Suggested Citation

  • Dessein, Wouter, 2012. "Incomplete Contracts and Firm Boundaries: New Directions," CEPR Discussion Papers 9019, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9019
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    1. Thomas F. Hellmann & Veikko Thiele, 2012. "A Theory of the Firm based on Partner Displacement," NBER Working Papers 18495, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Adaptation; Coordination; Firm Boundaries; Incomplete contracts; Managerial direction;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production

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