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Jessop (2013, p. 236) defines a social imaginary as ‘a semiotic ensemble (without tightly defined boundaries) that frames individual subjects’ lived experience of an inordinately complex world and/or guides collective calculation about that world’. A pervasive imaginary, according to Jessop, is that of the economic imaginary. The transfer and exchange of capital is reified as a conceptual space known as ‘the market’ where capital, in the form of goods, services, commodities and assets, can be valued and traded. I argue that, whilst modes of production and exchange have a material correlate, the historical development of liberal capitalism has moved from the material conditions of production to increasingly abstract conditions of exchange, and that these abstract conditions are circumscribed by the fuzzy parameters of ‘the market’.
This approach constitutes an experiment in the development of a Cognitive Linguistic Approach to Critical Discourse Analysis (see Hart, 2014). Drawing from conceptual metaphor theory (Lakoff & Johnson, 2003) and embodied simulation theory (Bergen, 2012), I demonstrate how abstract representations of ‘the market’ in public discourse are grounded in general subjective experience (Barsalou, 2008). Further to this, I argue that ‘the market’ is an imagined reality that possesses the attributes of a divinity in that its functions are expressed as possessing agency, affectivity, force, and process.