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Reappraising the nature of the firm: the role and influence of lexical and structural ambiguity

Kay, Neil (2008) Reappraising the nature of the firm: the role and influence of lexical and structural ambiguity. Organization Studies, 29 (8-9). pp. 1209-1226. ISSN 0170-8406

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Abstract

In this paper it is argued that lexical ambiguity (where a word can have two or more separate meanings) and structural ambiguity (where a phrase can have two or more separate meanings) have profoundly affected the development of the theory of the firm and the economics of organization. We focus particularly on Coase's agenda as to what constitutes the nature of the firm, and argue that intellectual resources have been misallocated in this field of inquiry because of endemic problems of lexical and structural ambiguity. We suggest how the agenda could be restated and redirected. It is concluded that resource-based economics, organizational decision theory and transaction cost analysis (in the broadest sense) should not be seen as potentially competing perspectives or frameworks in analysis of the nature of the firm, but instead as valuable and complementary tools for such analysis.