“The market deals out profits and losses” – How Standard Economic Textbooks Promote Uncritical Thinking in Metaphors

Silja Graupe, Theresa Steffestun


Purpose: Cognitive Linguistics has repeatedly pointed out the major significance of metaphors. In particular, metaphors are highly effective in the context of political and economic discourse. We analyze the as yet ignored use of metaphors in standard economic textbooks as exemplified by Paul A. Samuelson and N. Gregory Mankiw. The following will focus on the metaphorical semantic context surrounding the abstract concept of „the market“.

Design: Using textual analysis and drawing from Conceptual Metaphor Theory the authors examine how the concept of „the market“ is introduced as an abstract and primarily empty concept, (re-)interpreted with the help of entity metaphors, personifications and orientational metaphors, and linked to ideological and political value judgments. In addition the analysis illustrates how the use of metaphors in textbooks is not made transparent, nor is a critical reflection of the metaphorical rhetoric encouraged.

Findings: In conclusion, based on their own teaching experience, the authors, addressing both teachers and students, outline possibilities of promoting the critical and conscious use of metaphors, not only in textbooks but also in public discourse.

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DOI: 10.4119/UNIBI/jsse-v17-i3-1803

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