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Organizational Genesis, Identity and Control: The Transformation of Banking in Renaissance Florence

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  • John F. Padgett

Abstract

Current organization theories explain organizational form essentially through selection. That is, instead of focusing on the dynamics of emergence, the field as a whole adopts as its epistemology consequentialism, which emphasizes the relative performances, and hence death rates, of different forms in different environments. The hope of the field is that the performance relationship between form and environment is sufficiently invariant that equilibrium fixed points will be reached, independent of dynamic path. This shared epistemological stance hardly implies that theoretical consensus has been reached. Strong debates flourish over which selection environment is the most powerful (markets vs. states vs. professions); over what is the proper unit of selection (standard operating procedures vs. contracts vs. legitimation principles vs. structural phenotypes); and over what role strategic choice plays in macro selection (constitutive vs. epiphenomenal). All these debates reveal that "performance," the criterion for selection, is far more difficult to define, much less measure, than may at first appear. Such operational difficulties aside, the field's epistemological convergence on consequentialism has had the virtue of permitting debates to be tight and well focused.

Suggested Citation

  • John F. Padgett, 2000. "Organizational Genesis, Identity and Control: The Transformation of Banking in Renaissance Florence," Working Papers 00-07-038, Santa Fe Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:00-07-038
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