The Interdependence of Private and Public Interests

Organization Science, 20(6), pp.1034-1052.

Posted: 6 Aug 2009 Last revised: 15 Dec 2015

See all articles by Joseph T. Mahoney

Joseph T. Mahoney

University of Illinois

Anita M. McGahan

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Christos N. Pitelis

Brunel University London

Date Written: August 6, 2009


The predominant focus in research on organizations is either on private or public institutions without consistent consideration of their interdependencies. The emphasis in scholarship on private or public interests has strengthened as disciplinary and professional knowledge has deepened: management scholars, for example, tend to consider the corporation as the unit of analysis, while scholars of public policy often analyze governmental, multilateral, community and non-profit organizations. This article advocates a partial merging of these research agendas on the grounds that private and public interests cannot be fully understood if they are conceived independently. We review three major areas of activity today in which public and private interests interact in complex ways, and maintain that current theories of organization science can be deployed to understand better these interactions. We also suggest that theories of public-private interaction also require development and describe a concept called 'global sustainable value creation,' which may be used to identify organizational and institutional configurations and strategies conducive to worldwide, intertemporal efficiency and value creation. We conclude that scholarship on organizations would advance if private-public interactions were evaluated by the criterion of global sustainable value creation and we identify organizational research opportunities that consider jointly public and private interests.

Keywords: private-public interaction, sustainable value creation

Suggested Citation

Mahoney, Joseph T. and McGahan, Anita M. and Pitelis, Christos N., The Interdependence of Private and Public Interests (August 6, 2009). Organization Science, 20(6), pp.1034-1052., Available at SSRN: or

Joseph T. Mahoney

University of Illinois ( email )

1206 South Sixth Street
339 Commerce West
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
217-244-7969 (Phone)
217-244-4102 (Fax)

Anita M. McGahan

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
416-978-6188 (Phone)

Christos N. Pitelis (Contact Author)

Brunel University London ( email )

Brunel Business School
London, UB8 3PH
United Kingdom

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