IS THERE A ROLE FOR TRANSACTION COST ECONOMICS IF WE VIEW FIRMS AS COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEMS?
This article assesses the usefulness of transaction cost economics when we view economic organizations, such as firms, as complex adaptive systems. Modern complexity science is radically different in orientation to neoclassical economics, which deals with decision making in contexts that are presumed to be simple and, therefore, disconnected from complex reality. However, transaction cost economics can be related to aspects of modern complexity science: bounded rationality, opportunism, and asset specificity are all associated with behavioral complexity. Furthermore, the emphasis of transaction cost economics on hierarchy and organizational rather than technological considerations is also consistent with complexity science. Drawing on literature in psychological economics, this article synthesizes transaction cost economics with aspects of complexity science in a manner that offers a new research agenda, not only in the context of the organization of production but in economics generally. Such theoretical developments are vital if policy makers are to have at their disposal analytical perspectives that are coherent and applicable in complex historical settings. Copyright 2000 Western Economic Association International.
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