5SSMN228 Industrial Organisation 2015/16

The assessment for this module is made up of a coursework component (90%) and an Attendance and Participation element (10%).

In order to complete the coursework element of the assessment students must submit two coursework essays. The word limit for each essay is 1750 words. Each essay will be worth 45% of the overall assessment for the module. Together the marks for the two essays will then constitute 90% of the overall assessment for the module.

The first coursework essay should address one of the following questions.

1.    Outline Coase’s account of the nature of the firm and evaluate the claim that its weaknesses relate to what he inherits from conventional economics.

2.    “The theory that mergers and acquisitions are often the result of hold up problems due to asset specificity is unambiguously supported by the case of General Motors and Fisher Body”. Discuss.

3.     “Marx’s analysis of the emergence of capitalist relations and the transformation of the labour process under capitalism shows that firms are internally related to and co-evolve with capitalist markets”. Discuss.

4.     “The emergence of technologies, institutions and social structures can be heavily dependent on context, and once established there are likely to be tendencies in place for the selected items to become locked-in”. Discuss making reference to relevant case study material and outlining why path dependency is important for the study of industrial organisation.

5.     “At the core of the corporation is a process of social positioning that takes an unusual form”. Discuss carefully outlining how the notion of social positioning can help us understand both the nature of the firm and the nature of the modern corporation.

Your essay must be submitted electronically via Turn-it-in by 10 am on 2nd November 2015. Essays handed in up to 24 hours late will be capped at the pass mark, any essays handed in more than 24 hours late will be awarded a mark of zero. However, if you feel you have legitimate reasons for requesting an extension or for submitting your coursework late you should follow the procedures set out in the School of Business and Management Undergraduate Handbook.

When handing in your essay you must not include your name on the essay. Please note that you must include a word count and, in accordance with School policy as set out in the Undergraduate Handbook, penalties for exceeding word limits will apply. Footnotes or endnotes are included in the word count. The bibliography is not included in the word limit of 1750 words.

For illustrative initial readings see list below. For relevant reading please also refer to the course outline and relevant detailed lecture outlines.

A second coursework assignment sheet will in due course be circulated containing the questions for the second coursework essay.

Initial readings

Essay 1

1.    Coase, R. H , 1937, ‘The Nature of the Firm’, Economica. An abridged version reprinted in Putterman, L. and Kroszner, R, eds, 1996, The Economic Nature of the Firm: A Reader, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Also reprinted in Buckley, P, J and Michie, J, eds, Firms, Organisations and Contracts, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
2.    Dunn, M. H, 1992, ‘Firms, markets and hierarchies: a critical appraisal of Ronald Coase’s contribution to the explanation of the ‘Nature of the Firm’, Ordo, Vol 43, pp 193-204. Available at:
3.    Marciano, A, 2013, An Obituary: Ronald Coase’, History of Economic Ideas, Vol21 , No 2, pp 11-27. Available at: SSRN:


Essay 2
1.    Klein, B, 1998, ‘Hold up Problem’ in Peter K Newman ed, The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics and Law, Vol 2, MacMillan, London. As reprinted in Initial readings.
2.    Williamson, O. E., 1981, ‘The Economics of Organization: The Transaction Cost Approach’, American Journal of Sociology, Vol 87, Number 3. As reprinted in Initial Readings. King’s has electronic access to this journal, follow the ejournal links on the ISS page.
3.    Coase, R. H, 2006, ‘The Conduct of Economics: the example of Fisher Body and General Motors’, Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, Vol 15, No 2, 255-278. King’s has electronic access to this journal, follow the ejournal links on the King’s webpage.


Essay 3
1.    Collier, A, 2004, Marx, One world publishers. Various chapters.
2.    Meikle, S, 1996, ‘Marx and the Stalinist History Textbook’, Critique Vol 27.
3.    Ankarloo, D and Palermo, G, 2004, ‘Anti-Williamson: A Marxian critique of New Institutional Economics’, Cambridge Journal of Economics, Vol 28, No 3, May 2004. pp 413-429.


Essay 4
1. David, P. A, 1986, ‘Understanding the Economics of QWERTY: The Necessity of History’, in Parker, W. N. ed, Economic History and the Modern Economist, Oxford Blackwell.
2. Grindley, P, 1995, Standards, Strategy and Policy: Cases and Stories, Oxford University Press, Oxford, Chapter 4 and 6.
3. Martin, R and Sunley, P, 2006, ‘Path Dependence and regional economic evolution’, Journal of Economic Geography, Vol 6, No 4, 395-437.

Essay 5
1.    Lawson, T, 2015, ‘The Modern Corporation: the Site of a mechanism (of Global Social Change) that is Out-of-Control’ in Archer, M, ed, Social Morphogenesis: Generative Mechanisms Transforming the Social Order, Springer. New York.
2.    Lawson, T, 2012, ‘Ontology and the Study of Social Reality: emergence, organisation, community, power, social relations, corporations, artefacts and money’, Cambridge Journal of Economics, Vol 36, No 2.
3.    Lawson, T, 2015, ‘The Nature of the Firm and the Peculiarities of the Corporation’, Cambridge Journal of Economics, Volume 39, issue 1.


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