Gales, Streams, and Multipliers: Conceptual Metaphors and Theory Development in Business History

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Abstract

Conceptual metaphors, like Galambos and Amatori’s “entrepreneurial multiplier,” play a pivotal but largely unexamined role in historical interpretation. They do this by allowing historians to see one set of historical associations or relationships in terms of another, more familiar, one. I highlight this interpretive role by comparing Galambos and Amatori’s construct to Joseph Schumpeter’s “gale of creative destruction” and Arthur Cole’s “entrepreneurial stream” as metaphors that attempt to explain the relationship between entrepreneurship and historical change. I also point out the risks that taken-for-granted metaphors can have in narrowing room for interpretation, and argue that reflexivity and playfulness are essential to keeping conceptual metaphors alive as interpretive devices. I conclude by suggesting that metaphors are an intrinsic form of theorizing in historical interpretation, and illustrate my argument by briefly examining “industrial revolution” as a construct in business and economic history.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnterprise & Society
Volume21
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)320-339
Number of pages20
ISSN1467-2227
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

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