Theories of the Firm-Market Boundary

Zenger, Todd R., Felin, Teppo and Bigelow, Lyda (2011) Theories of the Firm-Market Boundary. The Academy of Management Annals, 2011, 5 (1). pp. 89-133.


A central role of the entrepreneur-manager is assembling a strategic bundle of complementary assets and activities, either existing or foreseen, which when combined create value for the firm. This process of creating value however requires managers to assess which activities should be handled by the market and which should be handled within hierarchy. Indeed, for more than forty years, economists, sociologists and organizational scholars have extensively examined the theory of the firm’s central question: what determines the boundaries of the firm? Many alternative theories have emerged and are frequently positioned as competing explanations, often with no shortage of critique for one another. In this paper, we review these theories and suggest that the core theories that have emerged to explain the boundary of the firm commonly address distinctly different directional forces on the firm boundary - forces that are tightly interrelated. We specifically address these divergent, directional forces - as they relate to organizational boundaries - by focusing on four central questions. First, what are the virtues of markets in organizing assets and activities? Second, what factors drive markets to fail? Third, what are the virtues of integration in organizing assets and activities? Fourth, what factors drive organizations to fail? We argue that a complete theory of the firm must address these four questions and we review the relevant literature regarding each of these questions and discuss extant debates and the associated implications for future research.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: theory of the firm, firm boundaries, market failure, organization failure
Subject(s): Strategy; Entrepreneurship & Global business
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2015 11:56
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2018 13:10
Funders: n/a

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