oliver williamson, the nobel prize and organization theory
So, beyond the seminal contributions of his work (which O&M will undoubtedly discuss), here’s why Oliver Williamson’s Nobel prize in economics is also a huge win for the fields of organization theory, strategic management and organizational sociology:
- Many of Williamson’s articles (including highly cited ones) are published in organization theory, strategy and sociology journals: Administrative Science Quarterly, American Journal of Sociology, Strategic Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, etc.
- Arguably the seminal piece of economic sociology, Granovetter’s 1985 article, is a direct reaction to Williamson’s work. Even though Granovetter’s piece is a critique of transaction cost economics, nonetheless I think critiques will also receive indirect attention (and then, who knows?). Furthermore, both Granovetter and Williamson have highlighted the need for a meaningful integration of organizational economics and sociology, something that I think is desperately needed (no matter what some people think).
- Williamson’s work has also been criticized heavily in management, for example by Ghoshal and Moran, and I think this debate is healthy and important (though I largely side with Williamson).
- Many of Oliver Williamson’s students are doing outstanding research in strategy and OT departments at business schools. Off the top of my head, the following come to mind: Nick Argyres, Kyle Mayer, Jackson Nickerson, Joanne Oxley, and many others.
- Finally, more substantively, questions of organizational boundaries ought to be a central issue in any organization theory. For example, questions of organizational capability are intimately tied with questions of organizational boundaries (plug: this was part of the impetus for this upcoming, pdf, Organization Science special issue.)
Overall, Williamson was long due for the award. And, for what it’s worth, I think Elinor Ostrom was also a beautiful choice. It’s fantastic to see scholars awarded for work that is so directly linked to organization theory.
Update: Time Magazine columnist Justin Fox is keeping track of the reactions across the blogosphere.