John R. Commons: Back to the Future of Organization Studies

Andrew H. Van De Ven, Arik Lifschitz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


This article focuses on a review of The Economics of Collective Action. It is logically the first book for understanding Commons's thought, for in it Commons presented a simplified statement of issues that he had argued more fully in The Legal Foundations of Capitalism (1924) and Institutional Economics (1934a). Although complex and difficult to comprehend in a single reading, the work of Commons provides a treasury of suggestions for those who seek insight and inspiration in dealing with issues of institutional innovation and change. This article presents an interpretation of the work of John R. Commons and its relevance for current developments in organization studies. The first part of the article summarizes Commons's pioneering perspective on institutions and institutional change. Based on this review, it discusses some implications of Commons's ideas for advancing contemporary approaches to the study of organizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Sociology and Organization Studies
Subtitle of host publicationClassical Foundations
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191577352
ISBN (Print)9780199535231
StatePublished - Sep 2 2009


  • Contemporary research
  • Institutional change
  • Institutional innovation
  • John R. Commons
  • Organization studies
  • The economics of collective action


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