, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 2-18
Date: 02 Nov 2012

A framework for the study of firms as constitutional orders

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Much of the literature on corporate performance focuses on institutional restructuring, and implicitly assumes that constitutional factors are determined exogenously. Existing theories of the firm—whether a “goal paradigm” or an “exchange paradigm”—provide useful insights; but we find them incomplete because they miss the extent to which companies build unique and meaningful constitutional orders. Building on Vanberg (Const Polit Econ 3(2):223–253, 1992), we investigate the extent to which the field of constitutional political economy (CPE) can improve our understanding of organisations, by providing a typology of CPE that can be applied to a study of firms. We make a distinction among (1) operational; (2) institutional; and (3) constitutional levels of management, and based on the CPE literature argue that “constitutional” considerations help us to define the boundaries of a firm and its operational environment.