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Conventions and Structures in Economic Organization

Markets, Networks and Hierarchies

Edited by Olivier Favereau and Emmanuel Lazega

This book contributes to the current rapprochement between economics and sociology. It examines the fact that individuals use rules and interdependencies to forward their own interests, while living in social environments where everyone does the same. The authors argue that to construct durable organizations and viable markets, they need to be able to handle both. However, thus far, economists and sociologists have not been able to reconcile the relationship between these two types of constraints on economic activity.
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Chapter 2: Conventionalist approaches to enterprise

Markets, Networks and Hierarchies

François Eymard-Duvernay


François Eymard-Duvernay1 INTRODUCTION The research programme on the economics of conventions was spawned by a combination of several disciplines and institutions. Economists wanting to develop a realistic approach to rational behaviour in organizations joined forces with specialists in other disciplines (sociology, philosophy, law, management) to account for modes of coordination involving rules, objects and interactions between people. This academic work overlapped with reflection at Insee2 on the role of categories and the plurality of firms’ investments in coordination. The present chapter reviews this research programme with regard to corporate studies, and compares it to other programmes with similar aims. Paradoxically, until recently the firm received very little attention in economic analysis. The reasons are clear. Since the neoclassical turning point, economists have focused primarily on the consumer economy, neglecting the analysis of productive activity. In this approach, the firm is reduced to an entrepreneur acting in various markets, and to a productive function with technical constraints outside the model. Its importance is considered only in a negative mode, when it occupies a monopoly position that disturbs market mechanisms. The Keynesian current did nothing to enhance the microeconomic approach to business. Renewed interest in organizations during the past two decades stems from a set of complex causes. It was probably becoming increasingly obvious that the efficiency of an economy relied, to a large extent, on organizations. Economists could not continue to leave this area of investigation in the hands of management scholars. Moreover, it opened new fields for research, creating...

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