Purpose – The aim of this paper is twofold: on the one hand, it discusses first the notion of istituto as it has been developed by Gino Zappa within the Italian research tradition known as economia aziendale . It then proposes a critical comparison between the historical institutional approaches developed by Gino Zappa and John R. Commons. On the other hand, it speculates on the possibility of updating the notion of institution. Design/methodology/approach – The study is first solidly rooted on historical institutional inquiry. Second, it draws on the constructivist epistemology put forth by Edgar Morin, Mauro Ceruti, and Hans von Foerster. Findings – This paper allows more informed theorizing about the notion of institution since it deepens our understanding of the epistemological, theoretical, and practical “genetic variations” between the institutional perspectives of Zappa and Commons. This body of work is capable to extend its range in time and space to inform a number of present day relevant issues (i.e. the rising debates on corporate social responsibility and the firms' environmental and social reports) and to pave the way to additional research in the direction of a renewed holistic view of the concept of institution. Originality/value – First, it is argued that, during the first half of the twentieth century, a somewhat unusual and unexpected convergence occurred, according to which the study of institutions coupled Italy and (part of) the US. Second, in the renewed perspective, the concept of institution becomes the active locus of mediation of multiple viewpoints; the institution turns out to be the catalizing and organizing center of knowledge developed in different disciplinary contexts.
Journal of Management History – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 1, 2006
Keywords: Modern history; Organizations; Management research
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