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Learning from interacting: language, economics and the entrepreneur

Brendan K. O’Rourke (Research Fellow at Faculty of Business, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 23 September 2014




The purpose of this article is to provide a method of gaining transdisciplinary insight by focusing on keywords in the language we use. The language of economics dominates discourse about the economy. Analyzing this discourse from a great variety of perspectives has blossomed but promises much more. The study of the keyword “entrepreneur” illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of this diversity of perspectives, and also points to some possible opportunities for enhancing the quality of their interaction.


A broad discourse analytic approach is drawn upon to understand the role the language of mainstream economics plays in our discussions of the economy, to trace the keyword “entrepreneur” as it has been and is used in economics and more general conversations about the economy and to use a keyword approach to create a transdisciplinary understanding of the way the economy is discussed.


Economics in the sense of the mainstream approach that adopts the rational narrowly self-interested, calculating and decontextualized individual as its default assumption is a very particular language that has detrimentally dominated discussions of the economy. “Entrepreneur” is a keyword, the use of which in economics has both strengthened and put constraints on the way it can be deployed in talking about the economy. Focusing on keywords in the language, we use can provide a method of gaining transdisciplinary insight.

Research limitations/implications

A short article with such a broad sweep such as this no doubts illustrates the limits imposed by attempts at transdisciplinary communication, but a potential gain from any such interaction is that we might grow to have more informed and genuinely dialogic interactions about the economy. As another way to attempt communication across diverse positions, looking at keywords in the discourse about the economy seems profitable.

Social implications

Discourses of economics and the entrepreneur play a huge role in how people construct their roles and representations in the economy. Producing critical and creative understandings of these discourses that allow social actors to benefit from the diversity of completed and potential research work seems imperative in a world facing our current economic and social problems.


Discourse analysis of the economy, the entrepreneur and economics has produced many insights but these insights have remained stranded in intellectual niches. As studies of language and the economy continue to blossom this article stresses the need, and points to some opportunities, for more fruitful interaction, by adopting a keyword approach.



K. O’Rourke, B. (2014), "Learning from interacting: language, economics and the entrepreneur", On the Horizon, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 245-255.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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