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Imageries of the social world in epistemic governance


International Sociology

Published online on


To explain why neoinstitutionalist theories have been so successful in explaining global isomorphism and to discuss how they can be extended to describe otherwise inexplicable similarities in the world, the article approaches policy-making from an epistemic governance perspective. Utilizing a constructionist view on language, the article argues that popular and political rhetoric are inextricably bound to social scientific conceptions of reality through the use of root metaphors that are, in turn, woven into convincing imageries of social reality. In addition to the well-known culturally constructed imagery of social change as driven by functional requirements of modernization, two other imageries are identified: society as a hierarchy and the social world as comprising competing blocs. These three imageries are then discussed as key discursive ingredients for both social scientific and political actors seeking to understand and change the world. Finally, the implications of the article for future research are discussed.