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Metaphors of the market


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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.

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Metaphors of the market

  1. 1. Investigating Social Imaginaries: Metaphors of the Market Terry McDonough
  2. 2. Sign-posting 1. Background: CPE and ‘social imaginaries’ 2. Approach: CLA-CDA with NTL/ECG 3. Data: Tweets about ‘the market’ 4. Analysis: Describe constructions (form-meaning) 5. Analysis: Specify and interpret semantic-conceptual composition 6. Analysis: Explain the neural basis of metaphorical construal
  3. 3. Some background
  4. 4. Cultural Political Economy (CPE) CPE is a post-disciplinary trajectory within (critical) political economy that seeks to rethink the role of culture within political economy. (Schou and Hjelholt, 2018) CDA and CPE incline to critical realism rather than poststructuralism and focus analysis on relations between discursive and material elements of social life rather than just discourse (Fairclough, 2014) Focus on semiosis or ‘the intersubjective production of meaning’ (Fairclough, Jessop and Sayer, 2013)
  5. 5. Economic Imaginaries • ‘actually existing economy’ as the chaotic sum of all economic activities; • The ‘economy’ as an imaginatively narrated, more or less coherent subset of these activities; • Totality… so unstructured and complex that it cannot be an object of calculation; • Economic imaginaries rely on semiosis to constitute subsets; • Partial or material correspondence to real material interdependencies; (Jessop, 2014)
  6. 6. PRODUCTION Commodities Goods Labour Services VALUE Cost Price Trade Wage MARKET Currency Investment Speculation Exchange SurplusSurplus ‘actual existing economy’ (Jessop, 2014) ‘imaginatively narrated’ economy (Jessop, 2014) Consumption 70% 30%
  7. 7. Guiding Questions What constitutes the ‘intersubjective production of meaning’? How are abstract imaginaries co-produced? How are interdiscursive abstractions realised in text and talk? How is coherence maintained and preserved? Is there a neurocognitive correlate? That is, how does the brain ground complex abstractions?
  8. 8. Is the Emperor wearing no clothes..?
  9. 9. Outlining an approach
  10. 10. A Cognitive Linguistic Approach (to CDA) Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough, 1992, 1995, 2009) and Cognitive Linguistic Approaches (Lukeš, 2009; Chilton, 2014; Hart, 2014, inter alia) • ‘…explicitly theorizes the relationship between linguistic structures in texts and conceptual structures in the minds of discourse participants’ (Hart, 2014: p.11). • ‘…It also affords a lens on ideological properties of texts and conceptualization which have hitherto been beyond the radar of CDA’ (Hart, 2014: p.11).
  11. 11. A Neural Theory of Language How does the brain compute the mind? (ICBS/ICSI, UC Berkeley) • Views language as ‘an embodied neural system’ (Feldman, 2015). • ‘…we understand language by simulating in our minds what it would be like to experience the things that the language describes’ (Bergen, 2012). • Uses Embodied Construction Grammar (ECG) to specify ‘schematic idealizations that capture recurrent patterns of sensorimotor experience’ (Bergen and Chang, 2005). Discourse (minimal) as a ‘hard’ problem
  12. 12. Embodied Construction Grammar • CxG: form-meaning pairs (usage based) • Deep semantic specification (Semspec): embodied schemas (incl. metaphor) • Parameterize active simulations • Lattice-based configuration • Computational formalism: ECG2 Workbench (NLU) • Stochastic Petri (neural) nets • Here: underspecify (time constraints)
  13. 13. Why underspecify?
  14. 14. Collecting the data
  15. 15. Tweeting the market • Twitter as a corpus of ‘searchable talk’ (Zappavigna, 2011) • Self-reported mood predicts market trends (Bollen et al, 2011) Data: Random sampling of tweets (n=47) based on Boolean operator/s: (“market” AND “markets”) NOT “marketing” OR “marketed”
  16. 16. Describing the data
  17. 17. Describing the data: Agency MARKET AS: PERCEIVING AGENT (time-as-space schema) MARKET AS: ACTIVE AGENT (value-as-vertical schema)
  18. 18. Describing the data: Force MARKET AS: COERCIVE FORCE (finance-is-war schema) MARKET AS: OPPOSITIONAL FORCE (finance-is-war schema) MARKET AS: ORGANISING FORCE (finance-is-war schema)
  19. 19. Describing the data: Space MARKET AS: SPATIAL CONFIGURATION (trajector-landmark schema) MARKET AS: SPATIAL CONFIGURATION (trajector-landmark schema) MARKET AS: SPATIAL LOCATION (container schema) *water metaphor
  20. 20. Interpreting the data
  21. 21. NP (ABSTRACT AGENT) = (BLENDED) SENSORY-MODAL STATE • (i) human perception; (ii) time-as-space • Agent role ontology is a blended state (perception of time as space) • The sensory modality is active, continuous, and derived from embodied perception • The ‘market’ is an embodied agent; it is grounded Interpreting the data MARKET AS: PERCEIVING AGENT (time-as-space schema)
  22. 22. NP (Abstract) - - > MATERIAL [verbal] PROCESS • Abstract agent performs a material process (action [rally < - - WAR]) • The material process has a motivation and a goal (S-P-G schema) • S-P-G subcase - - > container schema (“in”) • The material process is teleological: it expresses function/s • The abstract agent is personified (agentic) Interpreting the data MARKET AS: ORGANISING FORCE (finance-is-war schema)
  23. 23. Rwanda gov’t back on the market Foreign laundered money out of the property market Twice debuted in an *oversaturated market MARKET [container]IN OUT ON Interpreting the data MARKET AS: SPATIAL CONFIGURATION (trajector-landmark schema) MARKET AS: SPATIAL LOCATION (container schema) *water metaphor
  24. 24. Explaining the data
  25. 25. • Primes from ‘constantly performed motor functions’ e.g. UP, DOWN, IN, OUT (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980: pp.56-57). • Embodied experience gives rise to image schemas (Johnson, 1987) such as the verticality schema (up=good; down=bad) or the container schema (in=close; out=distant). • Meaning as ‘centrally involving the activation of perceptual, motor, social, and affective knowledge that characterizes the content on the utterances’ (Bergen, 2012) • Motor representations are activated by verb usage (Glenberg and Kashak, 2002; Gallese and Lakoff, 2005; Glenberg and Gallese, 2011) • Schematic orientation affects subject response: ‘eagle is in flight’ vs. ‘eagle is at rest’ (Zwaan et al, 2001, 2002) Explaining the data
  26. 26. Neural Basis of Metaphor • Spreading activation and neural choreography binds cortical circuits (Lakoff, 2009; Narayanan, 2017) • Observed Spike Time Dependent Plasticity (STDP) shows post-synaptic latency between sensorimotor co-activants and hippocampal PbV (Narayanan, 2017; Shastri, 2002) • Latency decreases as domain mappings become entrenched (Narayanan, 2017) • Explanation: metaphors initiate cross-domain asymmetric firings between neural circuits responsible for sensorimotor input and control
  27. 27. Austerity: Grounding Weakens Over Time • Result from small sample corpus (austerity texts [n=12], 2009 to 2012) • Concrete relations between conceptual constituents lessen over time • Abstract relations between conceptual constituents increase over time 0.00% 2.00% 4.00% 6.00% 8.00% 10.00% 12.00% 2008.5 2009 2009.5 2010 2010.5 2011 2011.5 2012 2012.5 Frequency Distribution (Time) Concrete Abstract Space Force/Motion Linear (Concrete) Linear (Abstract) Linear (Space) Linear (Force/Motion)
  28. 28. FINAL REMARKS • Further ECG analysis to develop a deep semantics of ‘market-based’ discourses (and other social imaginaries) • Ways of handling metaphorical complexes • Statistical evidence from a corpus-based approach (???) • Comparative study with religious discourses: is ‘the market’ conceptualised as a deity (replete with priesthood, rituals, and beliefs)? • Psycholinguistic and neuroscientific evidence
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