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Beyond Markets and Hierarchies: Toward a New Synthesis of American Business History


  • Naomi R. Lamoreaux
  • Daniel M.G. Raff
  • Peter Temin


We sketch a new synthesis of American business history to replace (and subsume) that put forward by Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., most famously in his book The Visible Hand (1977). We see the broader subject as the history of the institutions of coordination in the economy, with the management of information and the addressing of problems of informational asymmetries representing central problems for firm- and relationship design. Our analysis emphasizes the endogenous adoption of coordination mechanisms in the context of evolving but specific operating conditions and opportunities. This naturally gives rise both to change and to heterogeneity in the population of coordination mechanisms to be observed in use at any moment in time. In discussing the changes in the population of mechanisms over time, we seek to avoid the tendency, exemplified by Chandler's work but characteristic of the field, to see history of adoption in teleological rather than evolutionary perspective. We see a richer set of mechanisms in play than is conventional and a more complex historical process at work, in particular a process in which hierarchical institutions have both risen and, more recently, declined in significance.

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  • Naomi R. Lamoreaux & Daniel M.G. Raff & Peter Temin, 2002. "Beyond Markets and Hierarchies: Toward a New Synthesis of American Business History," NBER Working Papers 9029, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9029
    Note: DAE

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    Cited by:

    1. Chuma, Hiroyuki, 2006. "Increasing complexity and limits of organization in the microlithography industry: implications for science-based industries," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 394-411, April.
    2. repec:zbw:espost:173967 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Kapás, Judit, 2003. "A piac mint intézmény - szélesebb perspektívában
      [The market as an institution - in a broader perspective]
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(12), pages 1076-1094.
    4. Hiroyuki Chuma, 2005. "Increasing Complexity and Limits of Organization in the Microlithography Industry: Implications for Japanese Science-based Industries," Discussion papers 05007, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    5. Asli M. Colpan & Takashi Hikino, 2016. "Diversified Business Groups in the West: History and Theory," Harvard Business School Working Papers 17-035, Harvard Business School.

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    JEL classification:

    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • M0 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - General

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