Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Edith T. Penrose: Economist of "The Ordinary Business of Life"

Pattit, Jason M. and Pattit, Katherina G. and Spender, J C (2021): Edith T. Penrose: Economist of "The Ordinary Business of Life". Forthcoming in: Strategic Management Review

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When Edith T. Penrose became Fritz Machlup’s student in the late-1940s, she found little in mainstream or Austrian economics to guide her as she began her explorations into the growth of the firm. While she acknowledged Kenneth Boulding’s influence on her work, we suspect she drew on a broader tradition that includes, among others, Alfred Marshall, Frank Knight (Boulding’s teacher), and Ronald Coase. We seek to demonstrate Penrose’s connection to this ‘invisible college’, particularly to Knight, and its influence on her investigation of the growth of the firm. Given mainstream economists’ pursuit of rigor at the expense of practical relevance and their continuing inattention to Coase’s work, we suggest Penrose’s work on the growth of the firm can be understood as part of a broader tradition represented by this ‘invisible college’, leading to useful new insights for business strategy and business ethics scholarship.

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