Firm Performance and Institutional Context: A Theoretical Exploration With Evidence From the Italian Cooperative Sector
This thesis examines the relationship between institutional context and firm performance, from both a theoretical and empirical perspective. The aim is to engage with the debate seeking to explain the observed diversity in the forms of economic organisation prevailing in socio-economic systems. The focus of the empirical work is on investigating the effects of the structure and behaviour of banking institutions on firm performance, in the Italian context. The analysis is comparative in the sense that confronts cooperative and capitalist business structures. The analytical framework is institutionalist in emphasising the institutionally embedded nature of economic performance, and the historical and cultural dimensions of economic behaviour. The institutional complementarity approach is used to investigate the hypothesis that the relative performance of different firm structures is context dependent. The main conclusions are that the economic performance of cooperative firms is strongly conditioned in a sense of institutional complementarity by the degree of development and competition characterising the financial domain. Rejected are the pessimistic predictions of conventional accounts that democratic firms are unequivocally unviable. Instead, there are relations of context dependency, of institutional complementarity that influence the viability of firm types. The overall conclusion is that the dynamics governing the evolution of socio-economic systems are much more complex than mainstream economics suggests; productive organisations may assume a multiplicity of forms. The theoretical claims of a universalistic history in which all production systems must follow the same line of development must be abandoned. This brings about major policy implications at the regional, national and international levels.