Causal and Constitutive Relations, and the Squaring of Coleman’s Diagram: Reply to Vromen


We respond to Jack Vromen’s (this issue) critique of our discussion of the missing micro-foundations of work on routines and capabilities in economics and management research. Contrary to Vromen, we argue that (1) inter-level relations can be causal, and that inter-level causal relations may also obtain between routines and actions and interactions; (2) there are no macro-level causal mechanisms; and (3) on certain readings of the notion of routines and capabilities, these may be macro causes.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    We might note in passing that condition (b), separate identifiability, is often violated in the routines literature where X and Y, or the micro and the macro, are conflated with such constructs as “structuration” (cf. Feldman and Pentland 2003).

  2. 2.

    Note that it is standard practice in hierarchical model building to do this. For example, the literature on endogenous and exogenous social interactions claims to provide estimates of statistically significant causal relations (e.g., Manski 1993; Durlauf and Young 2001).


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Correspondence to Peter Abell.

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Abell, P., Felin, T. & Foss, N. Causal and Constitutive Relations, and the Squaring of Coleman’s Diagram: Reply to Vromen. Erkenn 73, 385–391 (2010).

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  • Constitutive Relation
  • Causal Relation
  • Strategic Management
  • Macro Level
  • Organizational Routine