The Nobel Prize

Oliver E. Williamson (b. 1932)

Oliver E. Williamson, US citizen. Born in 1932 in Superior, WI, USA. Ph.D. in Economics in 1963 from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Edgar F. Kaiser Professor Emeritus of Business, Economics and Law and Professor of the Graduate School, both at the University of California, Berkeley, USA.

Oliver Williamson, an emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and Department of Economics, is the 2004 recipient of the H.C. Recktenwald Prize in Economics for his contributions to the development of transaction cost theory and institutional economics.

The previous recipients were Professor Edmond Malinvaux of France, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University, Princeton University economist Paul Krugman and economist Paul Romer of Stanford University.

The premier German prize in economics was established by Hertha Recktenwald in honor of her husband, the internationally recognized political economist Horst Claus Recktenwald, who died in 1990. Recipients are selected every two years. Williamson will accept the honor in ceremonies to be held Nov. 3 at the Nuremberg Castle in in the city of Nuremberg, Germany.

Williamson is known worldwide as an expert in anti-trust, regulatory, and transaction cost economics. The latter combines economics, law, and organization theory to study complex contract and economic organization.

His work is said to have influenced everything from electricity deregulation in California to investment in Eastern Europe to human resource management in the technology industry.

Williamson, who also had an appointment in UC Berkeley’s School of Law (Boalt Hall), has called his own work a blending of the extremes of both soft social science and abstract economic theory.

The Edgar F. Kaiser Professor of Business Administration is the author of several books, including an economics classic, “Markets and Hierarchies: Analysis and Antitrust Implications,” (The Free Press, 1975) and 10 years later, “The Economic Institutions of Capitalism: Firms, Markets, Relational Contracting” (The Free Press). The latter is one of the most frequently cited works in social science research.

Williamson served as a special economic assistant to the head of the antitrust division of the U.S. Justice Department from 1966 to 1967 and has consulted for the National Science Foundation and the Federal Trade Commission.

He earned his undergraduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a master’s in business administration at Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in economics at Carnegie-Mellon University. He has received eight honorary doctorates from universities around the world.

The native of Superior, Wis., first came to UC Berkeley as an assistant professor in economics in 1963. He left in 1965 to teach at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University, but returned to UC Berkeley in 1988.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the Econometrics Society. He also was the 1999-2001 president of the International Society of New Institutional Economics. In 1995, he served as chair of UC Berkeley’s Academic Senate.
By Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations

Main Published Works
(1964), 'The Economics of Discretionary Behavior: Managerial Objectives in a Theory of the Firm', Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., reprinted by Markham Publishing Co., Chicago, Illinois, 1967; reprinted by Eurospan Ltd., 1974; translated into Japanese and reprinted by Chikura Shobo, 1981; Chapter 4 is reprinted in Readings of Industrial Economics: Theoretical Foundations (C.K. Rowley, ed.) London, 1971.

(1970), 'Corporate Control and Business Behavior: An Inquiry into the Effects of Organization Form on Enterprise Behavior', Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., translated into Japanese and reprinted by Maruzen Co., Ltd., 1974.

(1975), 'Markets and Hierarchies: Analysis and Antitrust Implications', The Free Press, New York. Translated into Japanese and reprinted by Nippon Hyoronsha Publishing Company, 1980. Chapter 2 has been translated into Italian and reprinted in Organizzazione and Mercato (Raoul C.D. Nacamulli and Andrea Rugiadini, ed.), Bologna, 1985, pp. 161 186. Translated into Spanish (by Evangelina Nino de la Silva) and reprinted by Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1991.

(1985), 'The Economic Institutions of Capitalism: Firms, Markets, Relational Contracting', The Free Press, New York; translated into Spanish by Eduardo L. Suarez and reprinted by Fondo Cultura Economica, 1989; translated into Italian by Margherita Turvani, 1987; translated into German and reprinted by J.C.B. Mohr, 1990; translated into Russian by Valery Katkalo et al. and published by Lenizdat, 1995; translated into French by Regis Coeurderoy aand Emmanvelle Mainant and published by InterEditions, 1994; translated into Polish and published by Polish Scientific Publishers, 1998; translated into Ukrainian and published by ARTEC, 2000.

(1996), The Mechanisms of Governance, Oxford University Press; translated into Italian by Margherita Turvani, and reprinted by Franco Angeli, 1998; translated into Chinese by Chien Wang et al. and reprinted by China Social Sciences Publishing House, 2001.
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