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Chapter 18: Edith Penrose and George Richardson
Brian J. Loasby 18.1 INTRODUCTION Edith Penrose and George Richardson met only twice: in Oxford at his invitation at about the time that The Theory of the Growth of the Firm was published (Penrose, 1959), and at her invitation in Waterbeach after its republication in 1995. The topics discussed at the first meeting are now forgotten; at the second they ranged widely but did not include economics (Richardson, 2002, p. 37). Richardson’s analysis of the organization of industry in terms of complementarities and similarities between the capabilities that are required to undertake particular activities seems a natural development of Penrose’s account of the evolution of the specific sets of activities undertaken by each firm that succeeds in growing, and extends it to the evolution of interfirm relationships. Both add valuable detail to Marshall’s theory of the interlinked evolution of economic systems and human knowledge, in which essential roles are played by the specific internal and external connections that are developed, consciously and unconsciously, by each firm. It may therefore seem surprising that the direct contacts between the two were so slight. However, this absence of contacts between people whose ideas (and attitudes) seem in retrospect to be closely connected is not so uncommon as one might imagine; and in this instance there is a good reason that is worth exploring for its historical, methodological and substantive interest. In summary, the eventual convergence was the unintended consequence of attempts to deal with what have often been conceived as distinct problems: the...
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