More on Routines
| Nicolai Foss |
The Journal of Institutional Economics, now in its seventh year of operation, is emerging as an important outlet in the intersection of new and old institutional economics, evolutionary economics and other more or less heterodox approaches. In addition, Geoff Hodgson and Benito Arrunada, the editors, are doing a splendid job of attracting contributions, not only from luminaries such as Richard Posner, but also from important non-economist thinkers whose work may have a bearing on economic issues (e.g., philosopher John Searle and evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar).
The most recent issue of JoIE features a special issue on “Business Routines.” The SI includes particularly thoughtful essays by Ulrich Witt and Jack Vromen. As readers of this blog will know, probably ad nauseam, Teppo Felin and I have repeatedly discussed the troubling lack of micro-foundations for understanding the emergence, stability, change, etc. of routines (and other similar constructs, like capabilities). We also have a paper in the SI, launching related, but different critiques. Specifically, we explicate the behaviorist and empiricist foundations of the organizational routines and capabilities literature and the extant emphasis placed on experience, repetition, and observation as the key antecedents and mechanisms of routines and capabilities.
This paper is followed by three comments by Sidney Winter, Brian Pentland, and Geoff Hodgson and Thorbjørn Knudsen, respectively, that take critical (in the case of Pentland, extremely critical) issue with various aspects of our argument. Winter and Knudsen and Hodgson raise many fundamental points, but unfortunately Pentland has thoroughly misunderstood the nature of the micro-foundations projects we advocate, and therefore concludes that all we add to the field is “confusion.” Although there is no such thing as bad publicity, Teppo and I are working on a rejoinder to these comments. More to come!