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Metaphor Analysis as an Approach for Exploring Theoretical Concepts: The Case of Social Capital

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Metaphor Analysis as an Approach for Exploring Theoretical Concepts: The Case of Social Capital

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Samenvatting

In many fields within management and organizational literature there is considerable debate and controversy about key theoretical concepts and their definitions and meanings. Systematic metaphor analysis can be a useful approach to study the underlying conceptualizations that give rise to these controversies and putting them in perspective. It can help identify the different ways a theoretical concept is structured and given meaning, provide insight into the way these different conceptualizations relate to each other, and show how these conceptualizations impact further theorization about the concept. This article describes the procedure for a systematic analysis of the metaphors used to conceptualize key theoretical concepts. To examine its usefulness, the authors apply the approach to the field of social capital, and in particular to the concept of ‘relationships’ in organizations. In the metaphor analysis of three seminal articles on social capital, the
authors identify seven metaphoric concepts for relationships. The metaphors are illuminated as important for providing imagery that adds specific meaning in the process of authors theorizing about social capital like ‘tie’, ‘path’ and ‘bridge’. They add dynamics and controllability to the concepts by attributing an array of verbs like ‘to move between’ or ‘to use’ relationships. In addition, the metaphors allow for the attribution of specific characteristics to the concept of relationships that can be used as variables in theory construction,
such as the strength of a relationship or the ‘distance’ between people. These insights are useful in exploring and reconciling differences in social capital definitions.

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OrganisatieHogeschool Inholland
LectoraatIntellectual Capital
Gepubliceerd inOrganization Studies, Vol. 30, No. 8, 845-863
Datum2009-07-23
TypeArtikel
TaalEngels

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