The Firm in Search of its Nature

12 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2019

See all articles by Anna Grandori

Anna Grandori

Bocconi University - Department of Management and Technology

Date Written: Spring 2019


This paper argues that the notions of ‘the nature of the firm’ prevailing in economics and management, in the course of having contributed to some distorsions in firm behavior via some biased assumptions, fall short of a core task: providing a clear specification of the traits distinguishing a firm from other organized entities. Paradoxically, the available theory of the firm does not say what precisely a firm is. Hence, in a first the paper identifies four main biases in the assumptions of available theories of the firm: pro central planning bias, association neglect, reification and teleologism. The second identifies four minimal necessary and sufficient elements for having a firm: continuous association and dedication of assets, legal personhood and responsibility, constitutional contracting, and property right sharing. The third part draws implications for an expanded theory of economic organization and for improved firm governance practices.

Keywords: Theory of the firm, constitutional contracts, responsibility, property rights

Suggested Citation

Grandori, Anna, The Firm in Search of its Nature (Spring 2019). European Management Review, Vol. 16, Issue 1, pp. 81-92, 2019. Available at SSRN: or

Anna Grandori (Contact Author)

Bocconi University - Department of Management and Technology ( email )

Via Roentgen 1
Milan, MI 20136

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