Agents with Principles: The Control of Labor in the Dutch East India Company, 1700-1796

Loading...
Thumbnail Image

Date

2017

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats

26
views
21
downloads

Citation Stats

Abstract

Principal-agent problems plagued early modern corporations. The existing literature emphasizes the potential benefits provided by private trade in aligning the interests of company agents to those of their principals. We contribute to this line of work by analyzing the organizational and social mechanisms that may help address principal-agent problems in the presence of private trading opportunities. Drawing on personnel records of more than half a million seafarers employed by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) over nearly a century, we show that monitoring was effective in reducing desertion when private trade was conceived as a market activity subordinated to hierarchy. Social bonds were more effective in preventing desertion when the company elevated private trade above hierarchy. Our analysis clarifies how early corporations could maintain control over a geographically dispersed and diverse labor force in the absence of modern tools of organizational governance.

Department

Description

Provenance

Citation

Published Version (Please cite this version)

10.1177/0003122417718165

Publication Info

Wezel, F, and M Ruef (2017). Agents with Principles: The Control of Labor in the Dutch East India Company, 1700-1796. American Sociological Review, 82(5). pp. 1009–1036. 10.1177/0003122417718165 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/26749.

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.

Scholars@Duke

Ruef

Martin Ruef

Jack and Pamela Egan Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship

My research considers the social context of entrepreneurship from both a contemporary and historical perspective. I draw on large-scale surveys of entrepreneurs in the United States to explore processes of team formation, innovation, exchange, and boundary maintenance in nascent business startups. My historical analyses address entrepreneurial activity and constraint during periods of profound institutional change. This work has considered a diverse range of sectors, including the organizational transformation of Southern agriculture and industry after the Civil War, African American entrepreneurship under Jim Crow, the transition of the U.S. healthcare system from professional monopoly to managed care, and the character of entrepreneurship during early mercantile and industrial capitalism.


Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.