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Money as metaphor

Tanweer Ali (Lecturer, at Center for International Programs, Empire State College SUNY in Prague, Czech Republic)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 23 September 2014




The purpose of this study is to examine two rival narratives regarding the nature and evolution of money with reference to metaphor.


The article draws on theoretical literature on money. Post-Keynesian perspectives are given consideration due to the particular attention that this school has given to money.


A crucial divide in the understanding of money is interpreted in terms of two different narratives. We conclude that the narrative of money as credit has greater explanatory power, but that the commodity narrative, which is metaphorical in nature, is easier to comprehend and conceptualize.

Research limitations/implications

This study has been qualitative in nature; further research would require specification of a linguistic methodology, including selection and analysis of a corpus. A process for detecting metaphors within a selected corpus would also need to be established. Moreover, the discussion of the commodity metaphor as a normative theory has not considered the moral aspects of different views on debt and credit.

Social implications

Study of metaphor should shed light on basic assumptions behind public policy choices. This should enhance the general understanding of related debates, for example on public spending (i.e. austerity versus stimulus).


This article examines a familiar debate in economics using the methods of linguistics. The approach may also serve a function as a pedagogical tool.



The author wishes to thank David Starr-Glass, Jacqueline Haverals, Tess Slavickova, James Critz, Marc Pilkington and Catherine Resche for their comments and advice.


Ali, T. (2014), "Money as metaphor", On the Horizon, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 297-307.



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