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The Theory of the Growth of the Firm Paperback – 24 Sep 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 4 edition (24 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199573840
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199573844
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 1.5 x 15.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 508,542 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


Review from previous edition A jewel of a volume. (John Kay, Financial Times)

The basic propositions that Edith Penrose put forth in her book The Theory of the Growth of the Firm were provocative and path breaking. However, few then ventured to go down the path she blazed. Time has passed, and over the last decade that path has become crowded with scholars of firm behaviour, some of whom have only the dimmest awareness that the ideas they are working with were first put forward by Penrose. How good it is to have her book, long out of print, available again. Her insights, her arguments, still read fresh and right, and finally will get the attention they warrant. (Professor Richard R. Nelson, School of International & Public Affairs, Columbia University (On third edition))

The Theory of the Growth of the Firm is not only a classic, to be read as a historical milestone in the evolution of research on the strategy and management of firms, but also the most insightful contribution to the most contemporary theory of strategy: the resource based view of the firm. I cannot think of any book that I will put higher on the 'must read' list for students and scholars in the strategy field than this one. (Sumantra Ghoshal, formerly of the London Business School (On third edition))

Edith Penrose's pioneering work on the resource-based approach to the firm's growth has greatly inspired me and hundreds of other scholars. She was also one of the first to recognize the role of knowledge in business management. As we enter the 'knowledge society', this reissue of her classic work with its new foreword is well timed and welcome. (Professor Ikujiro Nonaka, Hitosubashi University of Tokyo (On third edition))

I believe her book bears reading and re-reading becuase it is a goldmine of concepts for understanding business and industrial organization. It is unique in that it seeks to provide an axiomatic treatment of economics, but grounds it in a theory of the firm and not of markets (Professor Michael Best, Centre for Industrial Competitiveness, University of Massachusetts Lowell (On third edition)) was a book that was doubly blessed - it has originality as well as argument, which though subtle, was available to intelligent students at all levels. (Economics (On first edition))

...packed with ideas. (R. L. Marris, The Economic Journal (On first edition))

...a serious book that ought to touch the survival instinct of every reflective businessman and investor. (Wall Street Journal (On first edition))

About the Author

Edith Penrose was formerly at SOAS and INSEAD. Dr. Christos Pitelis is Director at the Centre for International Business and Management (CIBAM), Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Snow Leopard on 8 July 2012
Format: Paperback
As other reviewers have indicated, Edith Penrose's (1959) work is a classic source for economists, organisation theorists and students of strategic management. It's also a magnificent example of writing that is coherent, crystal clear, yet also retaining a strong impression of its author's distinctive voice (and occasional wit). In all respects, an object lesson for the young academic who's in danger of becoming a publications-driven automaton, churning out dull, humourless, mechanical prose in order to comply with the whims of 'high-impact' journals. Just one warning: as Edith cautions in her original Preface, 'the entire study is essentially a single argument' so it's important to work through it step-by-step, rather than skipping any sections in order to get to the conclusions. Also be sure to read Christos Pitelis's excellent introduction, and look out his collected book of essays on Penrose, first published in 2002.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Build to Last Theory 23 Nov. 2013
By Oliver Shu - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is classical theory, that was the foundation of theory and papers and furthermore, the theory has been claimed for over 53 years, it was well-recognized and well accepted by scholars and researchers, the theory that we can call it build to last theory for sure. I really enjoy as a PhD. candidate, and I would like to strongly recommend for reading this sound book.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A lasting masterpiece 11 Dec. 2012
By Philip G. Rochford - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This classic book has withstood the passage of time. It explains quite fully the intricacies of how a firm grows and develops. The style is engaging and the coverage of possibilities for the growth of a firm are compelling. It has to be read with focus and slowly.

Philip G. Rochford
Author & Personal Empowerment Specialist
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Une théorie de la firme qui s'intéresse à ce qui s'y passe 11 Oct. 2011
By Bernard Girard - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Tant d'économistes travaillent sans s'interroger sur ce qu'est une firme qu'il est passionnant de lire un ouvrage, déjà ancien, d'une économiste qui se situe en dehors de la logique néo-classique de la théorie de l'agence (à la Jensen-Meckling) ou de la théorie des coûts de transaction (à la Coase ou à la Williamson) pour nous parler de l'entreprise et de ce qui obsède la plupart de ses acteurs : comment progresser? comment croître? Edith Penrose est à l'origine de ce qu'on appelle l'approche par les ressources de l'entreprise. Mais la lecture de son livre apporte bien plus que ce que suggèrent les manuels d'économie qui la citent en deux lignes. Elle donne des indications extrêmement précises sur les mécanismes qui contribuent à la croissance des entreprises. Sa lecture éclaire quelques unes des difficultés de l'économie française qui souffre, comme chacun sait, d'être trop duale : nous avons une quarantaine de très grandes entreprises, de dimension internationale qui n'ont plus d'espace de croissance chez nous, et une multitude de petites entreprises qui n'arrivent pas à croître faute de ressources financières mais aussi de compétences, de ces compétences que l'on acquiert dans les grandes entreprises et là seulement. Sa lecture est très stimulante et donne des pistes pour sortir de l'ornière dans lequel se trouve notre économie.

Il semble me souvenir que ce livre avait été publié en français aux éditions Homme et Techniques il y a de nombreuses années. A défaut d'être réédité, il faut se précipiter sur cette réédition britannique d'un des grands textes de l'économie industrielle.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Real classic 18 Dec. 2013
By Ibis - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
this is one of the books we can call a real classic.
still it gives us many insights.
nowadays people write very tricky ways.
this is different but authentic.
I like it.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
After more than 50 years Edith Penrose stands the test of time 18 Jan. 2013
By Blaine Bateman - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book summarizes Ms. Penrose's extensive field research and thought on how firms grow, why they grow, and if there are inherent limits to growth. It is almost an astonishment to read because much of it seems like it could have been written last year. Her core argument is that as firms gain experience in some areas, they automatically generate knowledge embedded in their management (human capital) which can be used to plan and execute growth. That, coupled with entrepreneurship, leads nearly inevitably to growth. Students of business and economics will be interested in her descriptions and arguments.

Interestingly, her ideas that firms create within themselves specialized human capital as an asset that can be an engine for growth resonates well with more modern theories of differentiation and value networks as a source of competitive advantage. On the other hand, the message for today's highly diverse and dispersed organizations should be that communication and internal forums for ideas are critical to tap the human capital or it will go wasted. Her concepts essentially predict why good people leave firms for more opportunity, why companies that leverage internal communications for innovation are more competitive, and why M&A is so fundamental to growth strategies. These are all current topics; don't read this book as an historical view, read it to learn how to improve your business.
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