University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1707-1724
Number of pages15
JournalCambridge Journal of Economics
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2016


This paper aims to provide a critical assessment of Oliver Williamson’s work on the choice between public and private governance by focusing on his central proposition that public governance should be considered as an organisation of last resort when all else fails. Our primary argument is that Williamson’s work on public governance reflects an underdeveloped framework, mostly focusing on sovereign administration and is not suitable for application to a host of other public services. It has the potential to corroborate any governance form which limits the usefulness of transaction cost theory (TCT) as an instrument of analysis and prediction. Although Williamson characterizes TCT as an empirical success story our application of it to the public-private dilemma for water and sanitation sector finds very little historical and contemporary validity in this view.


This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Cambridge Journal of Economics following peer review. The version of record Hulya Dagdeviren, and Simon A. Robertson, ‘A critical assessment of transaction cost theory and governance of public services with special reference to water and sanitation’, Cambridge Journal of Economics, Vol. 40 (6): 1707-1724, January 2016, is available online at:

ID: 9332031