Human Capital and Transaction Cost Economics

Nicolai J. Foss

in The Oxford Handbook of Human Capital

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199532162
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Business and Management

Human Capital and Transaction Cost Economics

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Human capital (HC) may be defined as the stock of valued skills, knowledge, insights, and so on, controlled by an individual: the attributes of the relevant individual that are valuable in an economic context. It yields services such as labour services, management services, or entrepreneurship. While this overall perspective cuts across organizational economics perspectives – such as transaction-cost economics (TCE), property rights/incomplete contracts theory, and agency theory – the specific terminology applied here is particular to TCE. This article surveys TCE as it pertains to HC, concentrating on: the work of TCE's most prominent flag-bearer, Oliver Williamson; the precursors of his work; and the various operationalizations and extensions of his approach. Also briefly discussed is the property-rights approach, which, like TCE, rests on the notion of incomplete contracting and the need to safeguard transactions under such conditions.

Keywords: human capital; labour services; management services; entrepreneurship; transaction-cost economics

Article.  9110 words. 

Subjects: Business and Management ; Organizational Theory and Behaviour

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