The Economics of Rhetoric: On Metaphors as Institutions
The professional life of economists takes place within the boundaries of the institution of academic economics. Belonging to the institution enable economists in many ways. It provides a context wherein their contribution is meaningful. But it constrains, too, what economists are allowed to do or say. Thus, institutions both enable and constrain individual action. Metaphors do the same and are therefore, in this respect, institutions. They are place-holders to communicate our beliefs, feelings, and thoughts. So far, there is nothing wrong. This may become a problem, however, as Richard Rorty has once said, when the “happenstance of our cultural development [is] that we got stuck so long with place-holders.” In the essay we focus on the enabling and disabling roles of metaphors as institutions in the rhetoric of economics. We argue, from the perspective of economics of rhetoric, that some of the metaphors can lead us to path dependent circumstances where the performance of the metaphors is not as desirable as it was when the metaphors were first introduced. Sometimes certain metaphors undergo exaptation, and are employed with new functions. Altogether, we believe, the tools of institutional economics can be fruitfully employed to study metaphors.
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