In 1991 Coase was awarded the Nobel prize for economics, largely on the strength of these two papers.
But as late as 1972, he lamented that “The nature of the firm” had been “much cited and little used”.
In a strange way, Coase himself was partly to blame.
The idea of transaction costs was such a good catch-all explanation for tricky subjects that it was used to close down further inquiry.
In fact, Coase's paper raised as many difficult questions as it answered.
If firms exist to reduce transaction costs, why have market transactions at all?
Why not further extend the firm's boundaries?
In short, what decides how the economy as a whole is organised?
Almost as soon as Coase had wished for it, a body of more rigorous research on such questions began to flourish.
Central to it was the idea that it is difficult to specify all that is required of a business relationship, so some contracts are necessarily “incomplete”.
Important figures in this field include Oliver Williamson, winner of the Nobel prize in economics in 2009, and Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmstrom, who shared the prize in 2016.
这一领域的重要人物包括2009年诺贝尔经济学奖得主奥利弗·威廉姆森(Oliver Williamson) 以及在2006年分享了这一奖项的奥利弗·哈特(Oliver Hart) 和本格特·霍姆斯特罗姆(Bengt Holmstrom)。
These and other Coase apostles drew on the work of legal theorists in distinguishing between spot transactions and business relations that require longer-term or flexible contracts.