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Concatenate Coordination and Mutual Coordination

Author

Listed:
  • Klein, Daniel B.

    () (George Mason University)

  • Orsborn, Aaron

    () (George Mason University)

Abstract

We tell of the evolving meaning of the term coordination as used by economists. The paper is based on systematic electronic searches (on “coord,” etc.) of major works and leading journals. The term coordination first emerged in professional economics around 1880, to describe the directed productive concatenation of factors or activities within a firm. Also, transportation economists used the term to describe the concatenation of routes and trips of a transportation system. These usages represent what we term concatenate coordination. The next major development came in the 1930s from several LSE economists (Hayek, Plant, Hutt, and Coase), who extended that concept beyond the eye of any actual coordinator. That is, they wrote of the concatenate coordination of a system of polycentric or spontaneous activities. These various applications of concatenate coordination prevailed until the next major development, namely, Thomas Schelling and game models. Here coordination referred to a mutual meshing of actions. Game theorists developed crisp ideas of coordination games (like “battle of the sexes”), coordination equilibria, convention, and path dependence. This “coordination” was not a refashioning, but rather a distinct concept, one we distinguish as mutual coordination. As game models became more familiar to economists, it was mutual coordination that economists increasingly had in mind when they spoke of “coordination.” Economists switched, so to speak, to a new semantic equilibrium. Now, mutual coordination overshadows the older notion of concatenate coordination. The two senses of coordination are conceptually distinct and correspond neatly to the two dictionary definitions of the verb to coordinate. Both are crucial to economics. We suggest that distinguishing between the two senses can help to clarify “coordination” talk. Also, compared to talk of “efficiency” and “optimality,” concatenate coordination allows for a richer, more humanistic, and more openly aesthetic discussion of social affairs. The narrative is backed up by Excel worksheets that report on systematic content searches of the writings of economics using the worldwide web and, using JSTOR, of Quarterly Journal of Economics, Economic Journal, Journal of Political Economy, American Economic Review, and Economica.

Suggested Citation

  • Klein, Daniel B. & Orsborn, Aaron, 2008. "Concatenate Coordination and Mutual Coordination," Ratio Working Papers 116, The Ratio Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:ratioi:0116
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Daniel B. Klein & Jason Briggeman, 2010. "Israel Kirzner on Coordination and Discovery," Journal of Private Enterprise, The Association of Private Enterprise Education, vol. 25(Spring 20), pages 1-53.
    2. Smith, Adam, 1759. "The Theory of Moral Sentiments," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number smith1759.
    3. Sugden, Robert, 1989. "Spontaneous Order," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 85-97, Fall.
    4. Russell Cooper & Andrew John, 1988. "Coordinating Coordination Failures in Keynesian Models," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 103(3), pages 441-463.
    5. Diamond, Peter A, 1982. "Aggregate Demand Management in Search Equilibrium," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(5), pages 881-894, October.
    6. Coase, R H, 1988. "The Nature of the Firm: Influence," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 33-47, Spring.
    7. Coase, R H, 1988. "The Nature of the Firm: Meaning," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 19-32, Spring.
    8. Coase, R H, 1988. "The Nature of the Firm: Origin," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 3-17, Spring.
    9. H. Peyton Young, 1996. "The Economics of Convention," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(2), pages 105-122, Spring.
    10. Spencer, Herbert, 1862. "First Principles," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number spencer1862.
    11. David Friday, 1922. "An Extension of Value Theory," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(2), pages 197-219.
    12. Daniel Klein, 1997. "Convention, Social Order, and the Two Coordinations," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 8(4), pages 319-335, December.
    13. Ball, Laurence & Romer, David, 1991. "Sticky Prices as Coordination Failure," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(3), pages 539-552, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Peter J. Boettke & Daniel J. D'Amico, 2010. "Corridors, Coordination, and the Entrepreneurial Theory of the Market Process," Journal of Private Enterprise, The Association of Private Enterprise Education, vol. 25(Spring 20), pages 87-96.
    2. Robert P. Murphy, 2010. "Coordination: A Critique of Daniel Klein," Journal of Private Enterprise, The Association of Private Enterprise Education, vol. 25(Spring 20), pages 117-127.
    3. Anthony J. Evans & Vlad Tarko, 2014. "Contemporary Work in Austrian Economics," Journal of Private Enterprise, The Association of Private Enterprise Education, vol. 29(Fall 2014), pages 135-157.
    4. Bruno Marques, 2016. "Transport-Tourism: Capacity Coordination
      [Tourisme-Transport : Capacite De Coordination]
      ," Working Papers hal-01265818, HAL.
    5. Harper, David A., 2013. "Property rights, entrepreneurship and coordination," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 62-77.
    6. Bruno Marques, 2016. "Tourisme-Transport : Capacity Coordination
      [Tourisme-Transport : Capacité De Coordination]
      ," Working Papers hal-01265798, HAL.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    coordination; concatenation; planning; coordination equilibrium; focal point;

    JEL classification:

    • A10 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - General
    • B00 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - General - - - History of Economic Thought, Methodology, and Heterodox Approaches
    • C70 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - General
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact

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