The Emergent Organization: Primary and Complex Metaphors in Theorizing about Organizations

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Marijn Meijering

Authors: J. P. Cornelissen, M. Kafouros

Publication Year: 2008


Journal: Organization Studies

Volume: 29

Issue: 7

Categories: Adaptive Organization, New forms of Organization


We argue that complex metaphors in organization theory are made up of smaller primary metaphors or metaphorical parts that form the atomic components of the molecular structure of complex metaphorical thought. Using examples from organization theory, we demonstrate that (a) complex metaphors are made up of primary metaphors that are often grounded in our embodied experiences as human beings; and that (b) complex metaphors can be dynamically elaborated, extended and reinterpreted in novel ways. Metaphorical thought thus emerges from primary metaphors and evolves over time which is a perspective that is more alive to changes in the social construction of organizations than the traditional view of stable `root' categories of metaphorical thought that pervade organization theory.


Marijn Meijering