Co-operation and Outsourcing in the Global Economy
Edited by Mario Morroni
Chapter 5: Oliver Williamson and the Logic of Hybrid Organizations
Claude Ménard1 ‘Whereas I was earlier of the view that transactions of the middle kind were very diﬃcult to organize and hence were unstable, [. . .], I am now persuaded that transactions in the middle range are much more common’. (Williamson 1985, p. 83)2 5.1 INTRODUCTION The literature about modes of organization that process transactions out of the usual market relationships but without integrating has expanded very rapidly over the last decade.3 Although exploratory papers on interﬁrm agreements and, more generally, on ‘non-standard contracting’ were published in the 1980s, the actual take-oﬀ in the analysis of these ‘intermediate forms’ dates from the 1990s. Transaction cost economics has played a leading role in these developments. The publication of The Economic Institutions of Capitalism by Williamson in 1985, followed by his paper on ‘Comparative economic organization’ in 1991 are landmarks that have inﬂuenced analysts far beyond economics, reaching managerial sciences, sociology and so on. However, the exponential growth of publications pertaining to these arrangements has not necessarily clariﬁed the topic. As noted by Oliver and Ebers (1998, p. 549), ‘. . . [the] increase in the number of studies has contributed to a rather messy situation marked by a cacophony of heterogeneous concepts, theories, and research results’. The vocabulary itself is not stabilized when the literature abounds with such terms as hybrids, clusters, networks, symbiotic arrangements, supply chain systems, administered channels and so on. In this ‘cacophony’ Williamson represents an exception: he has developed a concept, ‘hybrids’, that he has rooted...
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