Oliver Eaton Williamsonis a prominent author in the area of transaction cost economics, a student of Ronald Coase, Herbert Simon, and Richard Cyert. Prof. Williamson received his Bachelor of Science in management from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1955, M.B.A. from Stanford University in 1960, and his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University in 1963. He has held professorships in business administration, economics, and law at the University of California, Berkeley since 1988 and is currently the Edgar F. Kaiser Professor Emeritus at the Haas School of Business.
His focus on the costs of transactions have led Williamson to distinguish between repeated case-by-case bargaining on the one hand and relationship-specific contracts on the other. For example, the repeated purchasing of coal from a spot market to meet the daily or weekly needs of an electric utility would represent case by case bargaining. But over time, the utility is likely to form ongoing relationships with a specific supplier, and the economics of the relationship-specific dealings will be importantly different, he has argued.
Other economists have tested Williamson's transaction-cost theories in empirical contexts. The incomplete contracts approach to the theory of the firm and corporate finance is partly based on the work of Williamson and Coase.
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