Oliver E. Williamson

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Oliver E. Williamson at Nobel Prize 2009 Press Conference.

Oliver E. Williamson (September 27, 1932 – May 21, 2020) was an American economist, professor at the University of California, Berkeley and recipient of the 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.


  • Information impactedness is a derivative condition that arises mainly because of uncertainty and opportunism, though bounded rationality is involved as well. It exists when true underlying circumstances relevant to the transaction, or related set of transactions, are known to one or more parties but cannot be costlessly discerned by or displayed for others.
    • Oliver E. Williamson (1975) Markets and Hierarchies p. 31.
  • For those who, like myself, are inclined to be eclectic, no comprehensive commitment to one approach rather than another needs to be made. What is involved, rather, is the selection of the approach best suited to deal with the problems at hand.”
    • Oliver E. Williamson (1975) Markets and Hierarchies p. 249.
  • Because internal organization experiences added bureaucratic costs, the firm is usefully thought as the organization of last resort: try markets, try hybrids (long term contractual relations into which security features have been crafted), and resort to firms when all else fails (compatatively).
    • Oliver E. Williamson (1999, p. 1091) cited in: Steve Cropper (2008) The Oxford Handbook of Inter-organizational Relations. p. 355.

Quotes about Williamson[edit]

  • In recent years economists and historians have increasingly turned their attention to modern economic institutions. Economists such as Edward S. Mason, A. D. H. Kaplan, John Kenneth Galbraith, Oliver E. Williamson, William J. Baumol, Robin L. Marris, Edith T. Penrose, Robert T. Averitt, and R. Joseph Monsen, following the pioneering work of Adolph A. Berle, Jr., and Gardiner C. Means, have studied the operations and actions of modern business enterprise. They have not attempted, however, to examine its historical development, nor has their work yet had a major impact on economic theory. The firm remains essentially a unit of production, and the theory of the firm a theory of production.
  • Oliver Williamson has argued that markets and hierarchical organizations, such as firms, represent alternative governance structures which differ in their approaches to resolving conflicts of interest. The drawback of markets is that they often entail haggling and disagreement. The drawback of firms is that authority, which mitigates contention, can be abused. Competitive markets work relatively well because buyers and sellers can turn to other trading partners in case of dissent. But when market competition is limited, firms are better suited for conflict resolution than markets. A key prediction of Williamson's theory, which has also been supported empirically, is therefore that the propensity of economic agents to conduct their transactions inside the boundaries of a firm increases along with the relationship-specific features of their assets.

External links[edit]

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