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I write this with a mixture of loathing and fear. Loathing, because I generally believe that ungrounded discussions of methodology are not useful. I don't "do" method—or at least I don't do method well. Instead, I'm a "proofs in the pudding" kind of person. Better to have scholars from different disciplines attack a particular problem, and then assess which methodology produces the best purchase. Accordingly, I was much more excited to attend my last Wisconsin conference on "Changing Patterns in Business Disputing" which included in its eclectic presentations the original Suchman/Bernstein debate about the organization of Silicon Valley law firms. I am embarrassed to predict that this piece (and maybe this Symposium) will garner few citations. "Ad hominem" arguments deserve only slightly less respect than "ad discipline" arguments. Instead of engaging the substance of particular pieces, disciplinary arguments dismiss any work that is characterized as a discredited genre.
I am also scared to write this paper. I remember during the Madison conference on "Business Disputing" sitting next to my dear friend Lawrence Friedman while Bernstein was commenting on Suchman, and sensing Lawrence's visceral anger. I fear that for an economist to speak about sociology is almost by definition picking a fight: "Ah-ha, I knew it. Scratch Ayres, and you find a Posner."
Nonetheless, I am honor bound to say a few words about economic and sociological approaches to law. I hope to (briefly) address three issues: economic hegemony; economists' views of sociology; and distinguishing characteristics of economics and sociology. And finally, I will suggest that the Suchman/Bernstein debate could profit by confronting Joseph Bankman's article, The Structure of Silicon Valley Start-ups.
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