Metaphor as a cognitive obstacle (extmplyfied by the concept ”Institute”)

Metaphor as a cognitive obstacle (extmplyfied by the concept ”Institute”)

Shmerlina I.A.

Cand. Sci. (Philos.), Senior researcher, Institute of Sociology of the Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia

ID of the Article: 6888

For citation:

Shmerlina I.A. Metaphor as a cognitive obstacle (extmplyfied by the concept ”Institute”). Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2017. No 10. P. 15-25


Despite solid scientific biography, the subject of metaphor retains its position in the topical repertoire of sociology. Research interest in this theme reflects epistemological specificity of social knowledge, which to a large degree relies on metaphors. The wont to operate with images incorporated into the very style of sociological theorizing and researchers simply does not detect it. But metaphor might both stimulate and block social analysis. The article deals with the problem exemplyfied by core terms in sociology ‘the social institute’. It is one of the most important and at the same time obscure sociological concepts. Two cases of its usage have been examined in the article, the first is research programme ‘Institutional logics’ (IL), the second institutional treatment of corruption. It is shown that in both cases the ‘institute’ turned out to be a metaphor rather than a scientific term. This metaphor contains three metaphorical layers, which have been formed by the etymology of the word ‘Institute’, its juridical history and sociological usage. IL describes the principles and rules which organizational actors are guided by in their activities, and it is not obvious that the matter is about institutional phenomena. As for ‘institute of corruption’, the corruption (a form of it called system or grand corruption) is really similar to institute. However, there is a number of criteria which the phenomenon of corruption does not correspond to. IL deals with the metaphor which in the theory of metaphor is called predicative. ‘The institute of corruption’ can be understood rather as identifying metaphor. Whereas in case of Institutional logics the concept ‘institute’ reveals some heuristic potential, in case of corruption it rather blocks understanding of this phenomenon than helps to comprehend it.

social institute; Institutional logics; corruption; metaphor; metaphor predicative; metaphor identifying


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