Working Papers, The Johns Hopkins University, Department of Economics 515
An organization is a collection of agents that interact and produce some form of output. Formal organizations - such as corporations and governments - are typically constructed for an explicit purpose though this purpose needn’t be shared by all organizational members. An entrepreneur who creates a firm may do so in order to generate personal wealth but the worker she hires may have very different goals. As opposed to more amorphous collections of agents such as friendship networks and societies at large, organizations have a formal structure to them (though informal structures typically emerge as well) with the prototypical example being a corporation’s organizational chart. This structure serves to define lines of communication and the distribution of decision-making. Organizations are also distinguished by their well-defined boundaries as reflected in a clear delineation as to who is and who is not a member. This boundary serves to make organizations a natural unit of selection; for example, corporations are formed and liquidated though they can also morph into something different through activities like mergers.