Intention in Hybrid Organizations: The Diffusion of the Business Metaphor in Swedish Laws

  • Jan Bröchner
  • Karsten Åström
  • Stefan Larsson


Recent studies of conceptual metaphors in a legal context have often dealt with the power of embodiment. However, the connotations of culturally originated metaphors could be different when they appear in laws and regulations. In particular, the role of metaphor when the legislator wishes to define intention in hybrid organizations is investigated here. The case studied is how a conceptual metaphor of ‘business’ manifesting itself in the Swedish simile adjective affärsmässig (businesslike) has spread over 40 years. ‘Business’ early on acquired connotations such as impartiality and methodical approach, and can be used metaphorically. Introduced in the regulation of public procurement, ‘businesslike’ was later used to regulate conflicts of interest, restrict state aid and also entered tax legislation. Analysis of Swedish court decisions where ‘businesslike’ occurs shows how the emphasis has shifted from public sector efficiency to neo-liberal principles of competition, while stronger social norms related to environmental effects have led to the term being removed from the Public Procurement Act. Elements of a mixed jurisdiction arise from reliance on EU case-law, and national use of ambiguous cultural metaphors in legal texts and court decisions is a plausible response.


Legal metaphor Business Sweden Appeal cases 


  1. 1.
    [Cicero]. 1954. Ad C. Herennium de ratione dicendi, tr. Harry Caplan. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Kennedy, George. 1972. The Art of Rhetoric in the Roman World: 300 B.C.-A.D. 300. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Morra, Lucia. 2010. New models for language understanding and the cognitive approach to legal metaphors. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 23(4): 387–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Harries, Jill. 2013. The law in Cicero’s writings. In The Cambridge companion to Cicero, ed. Catherine Steel, 107–121. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Herman, Bill D. 2008. Breaking and entering my own computer: The contest of copyright metaphors. Communication Law and Policy 13(2): 231–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Patry, William. 2009. Moral panics and the copyright wars. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Loughlan, Patricia. 2006. Pirates, parasites, reapers, sowers, fruits, foxes: The metaphors of intellectual property. Sydney Law Review 28(2): 211–226.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Larsson, Stefan. 2013. Metaphors, law and digital phenomena: The Swedish pirate bay court case. International Journal of Law and Information Technology 21(4): 329–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Berger, Linda L. 2009. How embedded knowledge structures affect judicial decision making: A rhetorical analysis of metaphor, narrative, and imagination in child custody disputes. Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal 18: 259–308.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Larsson, Stefan. 2013. Copy me happy: The metaphoric expansion of copyright in a digital society. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 26(3): 615–634.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Johnson, Mark L. 2007. Mind, Metaphor, Law. Mercer Law Review 58: 845–868.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Johnson, Mark. 2002. Law incarnate. Brooklyn Law Review 67(4): 949–962.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Winter, Steven L. 2001. A clearing in the forest: Law, life, and mind. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Winter, Steven L. 2007. Re-embodying law. Mercer Law Review 58: 869–897.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. 1999. Philosophy in the flesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Quinn, Naomi. 1991. The cultural basis of metaphor. In Beyond metaphor: The theory of tropes in anthropology, ed. James W. Fernandez, 56–93. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Endicott, Timothy. 2005. The value of vagueness. In Vagueness in normative texts, ed. Vilay K. Bhatia, Jon Engberg, Maurizio Gotti, and Dorothee Heller, 27–48. Bern: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Fjeld, Ruth V. 2005. The lexical semantics of vague adjectives in normative texts. In Vagueness in normative texts, ed. Vilay K. Bhatia, Jon Engberg, Maurizio Gotti, and Dorothee Heller, 157–172. Bern: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Liebwald, Doris. 2013. Law’s capacity for vagueness. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 26(3): 391–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Percy, Elise J., Joseph L. Hoffmann, and Steven J. Sherman. 2011. “Sticky metaphors” and the persistence of the traditional voluntary manslaughter doctrine. University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform 44(2): 383–427.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Morra, Lucia, Piercarlo Rossi, and Carla Bazanella. 2006. Metaphor in legal language: Clarity or obscurity? In Legal Language and the search for clarity: Practice and tools, eds Anne Wagner and Sophie Cacciaguidi-Fahy, 141–174. Bern: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Cicero, M. T. 2011. De Oratore, Book III, ed. David Mankin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Fantham, Elaine. 1972. Comparative Studies in republican Latin imagery. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Lintott, Andrew William. 1999. Violence in Republican Rome, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Billis, David. 2010. Towards a theory of hybrid organizations. In Hybrid organizations and the third sector: Challenges for practice, theory and policy, ed. David Billis, 46–69. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Williamson, Oliver E. 1992. Markets, hierarchies, and the modern corporation. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 17(3): 335–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Thynne, Ian. 1994. The incorporated company as an instrument of government: A quest for a comparative understanding. Governance 7(1): 59–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Koppell, Jonathan G.S. 2003. The politics of quasi-government: Hybrid organizations and the dynamics of bureaucratic control. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Young, Dennis R. 2001. Organizational identity in nonprofit organizations: Strategic and structural implications. Nonprofit Management and Leadership 12(2): 139–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Auerbach, Alan J. 2006. The future of capital income taxation. Fiscal Studies 27(4): 399–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Likhovski, Assaf. 2004. The duke and the lady: Helvering v. Gregory and the history of tax avoidance adjudication. Cardozo Law Review 25(3): 953–1018.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Blok, Anders, and Torben Elgaard Jensen. 2011. Bruno Latour: Hybrid thoughts in a hybrid world. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Gaughan, Judy E. 2010. Murder was not a crime: Homicide and power in the Roman republic. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Renner, Karl. 1949. The Institutions of Private Law and Their Social Functions, ed. Otto Kahn-Freund, tr. Agnes Schwarzschild. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Larsson, Stefan. 2014. Karl Renner and (Intellectual) property: How cognitive theory can enrich a sociological analysis of contemporary copyright. Law and Society Review 48(1).Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Kövecses, Zoltán. 2010. Metaphor: A practical introduction, 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Lakoff, George. 1999. Metaphorical thought in foreign policy: Why strategic framing matters. Frameworks Institute. December.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Benveniste, Emile. 1973. Indo-European Language and Society, tr. Palmer, E. London: Faber and Faber.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Rohrbaugh, Richard L. 1993. A peasant reading of the parable of the talents/pounds: A text of terror? Biblical Theology Bulletin: Journal of Bible and Culture 23(1): 32–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Montesquieu, C.-L. 1989. The Spirit of the Laws, ed. A. M. Cohler, B. C. Miller and H. S. Stone. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Carnegie, Andrew. 1902. The empire of business. New York: Doubleday, Page.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Weber, Max. 1974. Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology, eds. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Veblen, Thorstein. 1904. The theory of business enterprise. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Melito, Richard. 1982. The “business” metaphor in the delivery of human services. Psychiatric Quarterly 54(1): 43–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Box, Richard C. 1999. Running government like a business: Implications for public administration theory and practice. American Review of Public Administration 29(1): 19–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Beckett, Julia. 2000. The “government should run like a business” mantra. American Review of Public Administration 30(2): 185–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Schooner, Steven L. 2001. Fear of oversight: The fundamental failure of businesslike government. American University Law Review 50: 627–723.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Glucksberg, Sam, and Catrinel Haught. 2006. On the relations between metaphor and simile: When comparison fails. Mind and Language 21(3): 360–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Söderbergh, Ragnhild. 1964. Suffixet -mässig i svenskan: en historisk-semantisk ordbildningsstudie. Diss. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Forssell, Hans. 1882. Järnvägstarifer och statsfinanser. In Studier och kritiker, II: 184–233. Stockholm: P.A. Norstedt and Söner.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Ibsen, Henrik. 1911. Ghosts and Other Plays, tr. Robert Farquharson Sharp. London: J. M. Dent and Sons.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Åström, Karsten, and Jan Bröchner. 2007. Imitating private business in public procurement: Swedish ‘affärsmässigt’. Journal of Public Procurement 7(2): 213–227.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Sundström, Göran. 2006. Management by results: Its origin and development in the case of the Swedish state. International Public Management Journal 9(4): 399–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Banoun, Bettina. 2002. Tax avoidance rules in Scandinavian and Anglo-American law. Scandinavian Studies in Law 44: 21–36.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Adler, Michael, and Sara Stendahl. 2012. Administrative law, agencies and redress mechanisms in the United Kingdom and Sweden. In Comparative law and society, ed. David S. Clark, 254–289. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Alejo, Rafael. 2010. Where does the money go? An analysis of the container metaphor in economics: The market and the economy. Journal of Pragmatics 42(4): 1137–1150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Kjær, Anne L. 2011. European legal concepts in Scandinavian law and language. Nordic Journal of International Law 80(3): 321–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Edwardsson, Eva, and Helena Wockelberg. 2013. European legal method in Denmark and Sweden: Using social science theory and methodology to describe the implementation of EU law. European Law Journal 19(3): 364–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. 60.
    Dulong, Delphine. 2001. La science politique et l’analyse de la construction juridique de l’Europe: bilan et perspectives. Droit et Société 49: 707–728.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Knill, Christoph, and Dirk Lehmkuhl. 2002. The national impact of European Union regulatory policy: Three Europeanization mechanisms. European Journal of Policy Research 41: 255–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    Christensen, Jørgen G. 2010. EU legislation and national regulation: Uncertain steps towards a European public policy. Public Administration 88(1): 3–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. 63.
    Schweitzer, Heike. 2011. Services of general economic interest: European law’s impact on the role of markets and of member states. In Market integration and public services in the European Union, ed. Marise Cremona, 11–62. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. 64.
    Oxley, Michael, Marja Elsinga, Marrietta Haffner, and Harry van der Heijden. 2008. Competition and social housing in Europe. Economic Affairs 28(2): 31–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Priemus, Hugo, and Vincent Gruis. 2011. Social housing and illegal state aid: The agreement between European Commission and Dutch Government. International Journal of Housing Policy 11(1): 89–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Elsinga, Marja, and Hans Lind. 2013. The effect of EU-legislation on rental systems in Sweden and the Netherlands. Housing Studies 28(7): 960–970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. 67.
    Malkiel, Yakov. 1959. Studies in irreversible binomials. Lingua 8(2): 113–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. 68.
    Gustafsson, Marita. 1984. The syntactic features of binomial expressions in legal English. Text 4(1–3): 123–141.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Boeder, Winfried. 1991. A note on synonymic parallelism and bilingualism. Studia Linguistica 45(1/2): 97–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. 70.
    McAuliffe, Karen. (forthcoming). The limitations of a multilingual legal system. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law doi:  10.1007/s11196-013-9314-0.
  71. 71.
    Hamilton, Alexander. 2000/1788. The judiciary department. In The Federalist Papers, ed. Robert Scigliano, No. 78. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Kövecses, Zoltán. 2005. Metaphor in culture: Universality and variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. 73.
    Bergh, Andreas, and Gissur Ó. Erlingsson. 2009. Liberalization without retrenchment: Understanding the consensus on Swedish welfare state reforms. Scandinavian Political Studies 32(1): 71–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. 74.
    Svallfors, Sven. 2011. A bedrock of support? Trends in welfare state attitudes in Sweden, 1981–2010. Social Policy and Administration 45(7): 806–825.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. 75.
    Murphy, Laurence. 2004. To the market and back: Housing policy and state housing in New Zealand. GeoJournal 59(2): 119–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. 76.
    Humpage, Louise. 2011. Neo-liberal reform and attitudes towards social citizenship: A review of New Zealand public opinion data 1987–2005. Social Policy Journal of New Zealand 37: 83–96.Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    Wedin, Lina. 2009. Going green: A study of public procurement regulation. Ph.D. thesis, Lund Studies in Sociology of Law. Lund: Lund University.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Bröchner
    • 1
  • Karsten Åström
    • 2
  • Stefan Larsson
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Technology Management and EconomicsChalmers University of TechnologyGöteborgSweden
  2. 2.Department of Sociology of LawLund UniversityLundSweden
  3. 3.Lund University Internet InstituteLundSweden

Personalised recommendations