Found to be one of the most cited authors in the social sciences, in 2009, he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for "his analysis of economic governance, especially the boundaries of the firm", sharing it with Elinor Ostrom. Williamson died on May 21, 2020 in Berkeley, California.
By drawing attention at a high theoretical level to equivalences and differences between market and non-market decision-making, management and service provision, Williamson was influential in the 1980s and 1990s debates on the boundaries between the public and private sectors.
His focus on the costs of transactions led Williamson to distinguish between repeated case-by-case bargaining on the one hand and relationship-specific contracts on the other. For example, the repeated purchasing of coal from a spot market to meet the daily or weekly needs of an electric utility would represent case-by-case bargaining. But over time, the utility is likely to form ongoing relationships with a specific supplier, and the economics of the relationship-specific dealings will be importantly different, he argued.
Williamson was credited with the development of the term "information impactedness", which applies in situations in which it is difficult to ascertain the costs to information. As he explained in Markets and Hierarchies, it exists "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". Thus, Williamson is to be counted among those who have taken issue with the view that the firm is another type of market, characterized by a nexus of contracts. In his own words: "But to regard the corporation only as a nexus of contracts misses much of what is truly distinctive about this mode of governance…"
In 2009, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences cited Williamson and Elinor Ostrom to share the 10-million Swedish kronor (£910,000; $1.44 million) prize "for his analysis of economic governance, especially the boundaries of the firm". Williamson, in the BBC's paraphrase of the academy's reasoning, "developed a theory where business firms served as structures for conflict resolution".
He met his wife Dolores Celini in 1957, while they both lived in Washington, D.C. They had five children.
Awards and fellowships
The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, 2009.
Oliver E. Williamson (1981). "The Economics of Organization: The Transaction Cost Approach" (PDF). The American Journal of Sociology. 87 (3): 548–577. doi:10.1086/227496. S2CID 154070008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-05-30. Retrieved 2012-01-11.
Oliver E. Williamson (2002). "The Theory of the Firm as Governance Structure: From Choice to Contract". Journal of Economic Perspectives. 16 (3): 171–195. doi:10.1257/089533002760278776. JSTOR 3216956.
Williamson, Oliver E. (1975). Markets and Hierarchies: Analysis and Antitrust Implications. New York: Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 978-0029353608.
Williamson, Oliver E. (1985). The Economic Institutions of Capitalism. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 9780029348208.
Williamson, Oliver E. (1989). Antitrust Economics. Basil Blackwell. ISBN 9780631171829.
Williamson, Oliver E. (1990). Economic Organization. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 9780814792407.
Williamson, Oliver E. (1991). The Nature of the Firm. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195065909.
Williamson, Oliver E. (1995). Organization Theory: From Chester Barnard to the Present and Beyond. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195098303.
Williamson, Oliver E. (1996). The Mechanisms of Governance. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195078244.
Williamson, Oliver E. (1996). Industrial Organization. USA: Elgar Pub. ISBN 9781858984889.
^ abOliver E. Williamson on Nobelprize.org , accessed 11 October 2020
^Mahoney, Joseph T.; Nickerson, Jackson (2021). "Oliver Williamson: a Hero's journey on the merits". Journal of Institutional Economics: 1–13. doi:10.1017/S1744137421000151. ISSN 1744-1374. S2CID 233655198.
^Argyres, Nicholas; Zenger, Todd (2021). "Oliver Williamson and the strategic theory of the firm". Journal of Institutional Economics: 1–9. doi:10.1017/S1744137421000539. ISSN 1744-1374.
^ abcdefSent, Esther-Mirjam; Kroese, Annelie L. J. (2021). "Commemorating Oliver Williamson, a founding father of transaction cost economics". Journal of Institutional Economics: 1–13. doi:10.1017/S1744137421000606. ISSN 1744-1374.
^"Five Individuals, 1952 Cathedral Football Team Among 2010 HOF Inductees". Superior Telegram. February 11, 2010.
^"Curriculum Vitae of Oliver E. Williamson" (PDF). University of California, Berkeley. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-06-11. Retrieved 2009-10-17.
^Pessali, Huascar F. (2006). "The rhetoric of Oliver Williamson's transaction cost economics". Journal of Institutional Economics. 2 (1): 45–65. doi:10.1017/S1744137405000238. ISSN 1744-1382. S2CID 59432864.
^Sveriges Riksbank's Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2009. Sveriges Riksbank. 12 October 2009. Archived from the original on 17 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-12..
^"Nobel laureate Oliver Williamson, pioneer of organizational economics, dies at 87". 23 May 2020.
^"The Passing of Oliver Williamson | SIOE". www.sioe.org. Retrieved 2020-05-23.
^Hart, Oliver, (1995), Firms, Contracts, and Financial Structure. Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-828881-6.
^Williamson, Oliver E. (1991). "Comparative Economic Organization: The Analysis of Discrete Structural Alternatives". Administrative Science Quarterly. 36 (2): 269–296. doi:10.2307/2393356. ISSN 0001-8392.
^Agafonow, Alejandro; Perez, Marybel (2020), Neesham, Cristina (ed.), "Discoveries in the Science of Organizational Economics", Handbook of Philosophy of Management, Handbooks in Philosophy, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 1–21, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-48352-8_43-2, ISBN 978-3-319-48352-8, retrieved 2021-10-27
^Special Issue of Journal of Retailing in Honor of The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2009 to Oliver E. Williamson, Volume 86, Issue 3, pp. 209–290 (September 2010). Edited by Arne Nygaard and Robert Dahlstrom
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