Oliver Eaton Williamson, born in 1932, is an American Economist and has been a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University and the University of California, Berkeley. In year 2009 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics Sciences along Elinor Ostrom, for their analysis of economic governance.
Williamson’s contributions have been of great interest in the field of industrial organization theory. He has argued that hierarchical and market organizations, such as firms, can also realize the function of governance’s structures in the resolution of market conflicts. However, problems can also arise from this intervention, as firms with enough size can disturb the order and abuse their market powers. Williamson’s analyses about hierarchy and market power are at the core of some of his articles, such as “Economies as an Antitrust Defense: The Welfare Tradeoffs”, 1968, and “Market and Hierarchies: Some Elementary Considerations”, 1973.
As a disciple of Ronald Coase he took special interest on transaction costs, and made a distinction between two different kinds: repeated case-by-case and relationship-specific contracts. The latter comes from the repetition of the first one, and comes from an on-going relation that ends with an entrenchment amongst parties. In fact, Williamson is considered to be the economist that produced the most articles about transaction costs, from which must be highlighted the following: “Transaction-Cost Economics: The Governance of Contractual Relations”, 1979, and “The Economics of Organization: The Transaction Cost Approach”, 1981.