Hirschman meets Williamson: Relationship-specific investment and loyalty

Károly Mike


In Albert Hirschman’s theory, loyalty plays a key role in the equilibrium between exit and voice. This article extends economic (rational choice) analysis to the emergence of loyalty, which Hirschman considers an exogenous factor. This is accomplished by linking Williamson’s theory of specific investment to Hirschman’s model. Three cases are distinguished: (1) loyalty is due to specific investment; (2) loyalty is due to (intermediate) factors influenced by specific investment; and, (3) loyalty is independent of specific investment. A simple model formalizes the first case. A paradoxical dynamic of loyalty is identified: a lower degree of specificity may lead to a weakening of loyalty in the short run but astrengthening of loyalty in the long run. An application to the process of European integration is sketched.


loyalty, exit, voice, embeddedness, relationship-specific investment

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14267/cjssp.2012.02.03


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ISSN: 2062-087X

DOI: 10.14267/issn.2062-087X