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The use of metaphors in organizational theory; the case of social capital

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The use of metaphors in organizational theory; the case of social capital

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Samenvatting

Metaphor is one of the important discursive themes in organizational literature (Grant et al.,2001). Metaphors play an important role in the discourse within organizations as well as in theorizing about organizations. This empirical paper focuses on the latter by analysing the role of metaphor in the development of theoretical concepts – in particular the concept of social capital – through the means of quantitative content analysis. Some authors argue that metaphors should be avoided in organizational theory (Bourgeois and Pinder, 1983; Tinker, 1986). Others see metaphors as valuable creative tools for developing new theories and insights (Weick, 1989). Morgan (1997) has shown that many theories about organizations can be ‘reordered’ (Keenoy et al., 2003) into a particular metaphorical view of organizations, showing the metaphorical bases of organizational theorizing. Lakoff and Johnson (1980, 1999) go even further, presenting compelling evidence
from cognitive science indicating that metaphors are inescapable because they are the basis for our abstract reasoning. There is a debate about the way metaphor works (Black, 1993; Cornelissen, 2005; Heracleous, 2003; Keenoy et al., 2003; Lakoff and Johnson, 1999; Marshak, 2003; Oswick et al. 2002, 2003; Tsoukas, 1991;) especially about whether metaphor is simply a matter of comparison highlighting the analogies in the source and target domain, or whether a metaphor does more then that. In the paper we take the latter position and adopt Lakoff and Johnson’s (1999) model of cross-domain mapping. This model states that not only
similarities and features are transferred from the source to the target domain but that the target domain often gets its structure from the source domain. The metaphorical mapping from the source to the target domain can be rich and complex because metaphors have many ‘entailments’. Entailments are the connotations of the metaphor that transport meaning from the source to the target domain. Furthermore, the application of conceptual metaphor often happens out-of-awareness (Lakoff and Johnson, 1999; Marshak, 2003). It is part of the unconscious mental operations concerned with conceptual systems, meaning, inference, and
language. We can recognize the unconscious use of metaphor in organizational theorizing by looking at the literal meaning of organizational concepts and statements (Andriessen, 2006).

Toon meer
OrganisatieHogeschool Inholland
Opleiding
InstituutDomein Management, Finance en Recht
LectoraatIntellectual Capital
Gepubliceerd in7th International Conference on Organizational Discourse. Amsterdam. The Netherlands
Datum2006-07-28
TypeConferentiebijdrage
TaalEngels

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