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Metaphors as research tools in economics

Lukasz Hardt (Assistant Professor of Economics at Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 23 September 2014




The aim of this paper is to show that metaphors play an important role in the making of economics.


The paper’s discussion is situated within the framework of methodology of economics. It refers to recent studies on the role of metaphors in economics, as well as to the rhetoric – realism controversy (e.g. D. McCloskey versus U. Mäki).


The principal results of the paper are: the demonstration of the importance of metaphors in economics; and the claim that metaphors are not only used for rhetorical purposes but also serve as research tools indispensable in explaining economic phenomena. They are also essential in economic modeling.

Research limitations/implications

The claim that economic models function as networks of metaphors needs further in-depth study, in particular drawing on insights from cognitive linguistics, where we find many interesting research projects currently underway, would be desirable.


The article contributes to the rhetoric – realism debate in economics. It adds some arguments to the literature claiming that rhetoric can be compatible with realism.



This research was financed by a research grant from the National Science Centre of Poland (grant no. 2011/01/D/HS4/03829).


Hardt, L. (2014), "Metaphors as research tools in economics", On the Horizon, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 256-264.



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