Religious and political metaphors in corporate discourse
Veronika Koller (Lancaster University) [BIO]
The neo-liberal restructuring of society has engendered a paradigm shift from religion to politics to business as the defining power in post-industrial societies (Koch 2001). As a consequence, religious and political institutions increasingly model their practices on those found in the corporate world, while corporate discourse utilizes the fields of religion and politics to communicate corporate brands. This paper looks at how residues of religion and politics surface in corporate discourse as metaphoric expressions (e.g. Corporate mission, empire-building).
Market factors such as global competition and saturated demand are forcing companies to differentiate themselves by constructing corporate brand personalities. Simultaneously, multi-national corporations have in late capitalism amassed economic and political power that in many cases already exceeds that of nation states, let alone faith-based communities. This paper argues that the producers of corporate discourse appropriate previous paradigms by means of metaphor to both construct their brand personality and legitimate their increasingly hegemonic role by drawing on established, if historical, sources of power.
The study’s empirical basis is provided by a corpus of mission statements as instances of a genre constructing the corporate brand. These were subjected to both quantitative and qualitative text analysis to ascertain the systematic use of metaphoric expressions from the domains of religion and politics as well as to investigate how these expressions combine with other linguistic features to support the central metaphor in the texts. In addition to the analysis, the study also draws on a substantial amount of anecdotal evidence to suggest that media discourse features very similar metaphors of religion and politics to conceptualize business and the economy.
Results show that the metaphors in question are most frequent in formulaic, quasi technical terms (mission statement, corporate citizen). Individual texts, however, show more creative use of these metaphors (e.g., corporate constitution), which are moreover supported by other lexis as well as by actor roles. While the metaphoric remodellings of the corporation have their origin in global market forces, the multi-national nature of many corporations also helps establish particular, culturespecific models as universal.
Koch, Joachim (2001): Megaphilosophie: Das Freiheitsversprechen der Ökonomie. Göttingen: Steidl.