The interdependence of private and public interests

Joseph T. Mahoney, Anita M. McGahan, Christos N. Pitelis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

238 Citations (SciVal)


The predominant focus in research on organizations is on private or public institutions without consistent consideration of their interdependencies. The emphasis in scholarship on private or public interests has strengthened as disciplinary and professional knowledge has deepened: Management scholars, for example, tend to consider the corporation as the unit of analysis, whereas scholars of public policy often analyze governmental, multilateral, community, and nonprofit organizations. This article advocates a partial merging of these research agendas on the grounds that private and public interests cannot be fully understood if they are conceived independently. We review three major areas of activity today in which public and private interests interact in complex ways and maintain that current theories of organization science can be deployed to understand these interactions better. We also suggest that theories of public-private interaction require development and describe a concept called global sustainable value creation, which may be used to identify organizational and institutional configurations and strategies conducive to worldwide, intertemporal efficiency and value creation. We conclude that scholarship on organizations would advance if private-public interactions were evaluated by the criterion of global sustainable value creation, and we identify organizational research opportunities that jointly consider public and private interests.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1034-1052
Number of pages19
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number6
Early online date25 Sept 2009
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


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