Rethinking the Institutional Contexts of Emerging Markets Through Metaphor Analysis

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21 Citations (Scopus)


• Recent literature recommends greater analysis of institutional contexts in order to better adapt strategies in emerging market economies. This paper explores cognitive challenges in understanding institutional contexts, and reveals an outdated vernacular around emerging markets. Unwittingly, we may be crafting strategies based on how we would like emerging markets to be, rather than on how emerging markets actually are. • Institutional context is investigated through metaphor analysis. As conceptual constructions that link the abstract to the concrete, metaphors can yield rich insights when analyzed. The metaphor analysis performed finds powerful cognitive simplifications and preconceptions of emerging markets. • Eliciting novel metaphors around the labels 'emerging markets', 'developing countries', and 'third world' uncovers a fragmented rather than holistic view of institutional context. Strategies unresponsive to emerging markets may flow from a fragmented view of institutional context. • In terms of theory, the use of metaphor analysis highlights the importance of considering subjective and even messy elements of institutional context. Prevailing discussions in the international business literature often focus on streamlined, objective measures of institutional context. This paper emphasizes that a complex process of institutionalization is being observed rather than a steady state of objective outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-539
Number of pages21
JournalManagement International Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug. 2012


  • Developing countries
  • Emerging markets
  • Institutional context
  • Labels
  • Metaphor analysis
  • Strategy
  • Third world


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