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Edited by Peter G. Klein and Michael E. Sykuta
25 Critiques of transaction cost economics: an overview Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein Ever since its emergence in the early 1970s (for example, Williamson 1971; Alchian and Demsetz, 1972; Furubotn and Pejovich, 1972; Arrow, 1974; Jensen and Meckling, 1976), the new institutional economics (NIE) has been the subject of intense debate. As the most important constituent body of thought in the NIE, transaction cost economics (TCE) is no exception. Much of the debate on TCE has been ‘internal’, in the sense that it has been conducted between scholars generally sympathetic to the approach (for example, Hart, 1995; Kreps, 1996; Furubotn, 2002; MacLeod, 2002). However, there also is a large set of ‘external’ critiques, arising from sociologists, heterodox economists, and management scholars. For instance, early critics argued that TCE ignored the role of differential capabilities in structuring economic organization (Richardson, 1972); neglected power relations (Perrow, 1986), trust, and other forms of social embeddedness (Granovetter, 1985); and overlooked evolutionary considerations, including Knightian uncertainty and market processes (Langlois, 1984). Such critiques have been echoed and refined in numerous more contemporary contributions, and criticizing TCE remains a thriving industry. The incumbents are mainly sociologists (Freeland, 2002; Buskens, et al., 2003) and non-mainstream economists (Hodgson, 1998; Loasby, 1999; Dosi and Marengo, 2000), but new entrants are increasingly recruited from the ranks of management scholars (Kogut and Zander, 1992; Conner and Prahalad, 1996; Ghoshal and Moran, 1996). This chapter offers a brief review and assessment of this critical literature. By no means do we...
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