IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Simplistic vs. Complex Organization: Markets, Hierarchies, and Networks in an 'Organizational Triangle'

  • Elsner, Wolfram
  • Hocker, Gero
  • Schwardt, Henning

Transaction cost economics explains organizations in a simplistic ‘market-vs.-hierarchy’ dichotomy. In this view, complex real-world coordination forms are simply considered ‘hybrids’ of those ‘pure’ and ideal forms, thus being located on a one-dimensional ‘line’ between them. This ‘organizational dichotomy’ is mainly based on relative marginal transaction costs, relative lengths of value-added chains, and ‘rational choice’ of coordination form. The present paper, in contrast, argues that pure ‘market’ and ‘hierarchy’, even including their potential hybrids, are a theoretically untenable and empirically void set. Coordination forms, it is argued, have to be conceptualized in a fundamentally different way. A relevant ‘organizational space’ must reflect the dimensions of a complex world such as dilemma-prone direct interdependence, resulting in strong strategic uncertainty, mutual externalities, collectivities, and subsequent emergent process. This, in turn, will lead either to (1) informally institutionalized, problem-solving cooperation (the instrumental dimension of the institution) or (2) mutual blockage, lock-in on an inferior path, or power- and status-based market and hierarchy failure (the ceremonial dimension of the institution). This paper establishes emergent instrumental institutionalized cooperation as a genuine organizational dimension which generates a third ‘attractor’ besides ‘market’ and ‘hierarchy’, i.e., informal network. In this way, an ‘organizational triangle’ can be generated which may serve as a more relevant heuristic device for empirical organizational research. Its ideal corners and some ideal hybrids on its edges (such as ideal clusters and ideal hub&spoke networks) still remain empirically void, but its inner space becomes empirically relevant and accessible. The ‘Organizational Triangle’ is tentatively applied (besides casual reference to corporate behavior that has lead to the current financial meltdown), by way of a set of criteria for instrumental problem-solving and a simple formal algorithm, to the cases of the supplier network of ‘DaimlerChrysler US International’ at Tuscaloosa, AL, the open-source network Linux, and the web-platforms Wikipedia and ‘Open-Source Car’. It is considered to properly reflect what is generally theorized in evolutionary-institutional economics of organizations and the firm and might offer some insight for the coming industrial reconstructions of the car and other industries.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: original version
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 14315.

in new window

Date of creation: Mar 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:14315
Contact details of provider: Postal: Schackstr. 4, D-80539 Munich, Germany
Phone: +49-(0)89-2180-2219
Fax: +49-(0)89-2180-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Richard N. Langlois, 2001. "The Vanishing Hand: the Changing Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism," Economic History 0110001, EconWPA.
  2. Huascar Pessali & Ramon Fernandez, 2005. "Institutional Economics at the Micro Level? What Transaction Costs Theory Could Listen From Original Institutionalism (In the Spirit of Building Bridges)," Industrial Organization 0511006, EconWPA.
  3. Wolfram Elsner, 2010. "The process and a simple logic of ‘meso’. Emergence and the co-evolution of institutions and group size," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 20(3), pages 445-477, June.
  4. Hodgson, Geoffrey M., 1998. "Competence and contract in the theory of the firm," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 179-201, April.
  5. Lerner, Josh & Tirole, Jean, 2002. "Some Simple Economics of Open," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(2), pages 197-234, June.
  6. Dominique Foray, 2006. "The Economics of Knowledge," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262562235, June.
  7. Ikujiro Nonaka & Ryoko Toyama, 2002. "A firm as a dialectical being: towards a dynamic theory of a firm," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(5), pages 995-1009, November.
  8. Sydney Winter & Giovanni Dosi, 2000. "Interpreting Economic Change: Evolution, Structures and Games," LEM Papers Series 2000/08, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
  9. Oliver E. Williamson, 2003. "Examining economic organization through the lens of contract," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(4), pages 917-942, August.
  10. Wright, Peter & Mukherji, Ananda, 1999. "Inside the firm: Socioeconomic versus agency perspectives on firm competitiveness," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 295-307.
  11. Perraton, Jonathan, 2001. "The Global Economy--Myths and Realities: Review Article," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(5), pages 669-84, September.
  12. Michael Dietrich & Jackie Krafft, 2008. "Towards an historically relevant economics of the firm," Working Papers hal-00211196, HAL.
  13. Kay, N.M., 1992. "Markets, false hierarchies and the evolution of the modern corporation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 315-333, May.
  14. U. Witt, 2003. "The Evolutionary Perspective on Organizational Change and the Theory of the Firm," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2003-07, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
  15. Geoffrey Hodgson, 2005. "Knowledge at work: Some neoliberal anachronisms," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 63(4), pages 547-565.
  16. Wolfram Elsner, 2005. "Real-World Economics Today:The New Complexity, Co-ordination and Policy," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 63(1), pages 19-53.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:14315. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Ekkehart Schlicht)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.