Publication details [#8168]

Mutch, Alistair. 2006. Organization theory and military metaphor: Time for a reappraisal? 19 pp. URL


A 'conventional' use of military metaphor would use it to convey attributes such as hierarchical organization, vertical communication and limited autonomy. This is often used in contrast to a looser form of organization based on the metaphor of the network. However, this article argues that military practice is more complex, with examples of considerable autonomy within the constraints of central direction. It is suggested that not only might this be a more useful metaphor for many contemporary organizations, but also that simplistic uses of military metaphor divert our attention away from the functions that management hierarchies play. The discussion is embedded within a critical realist account of metaphor, arguing for both its value and the need for its further development. (Alistair Mutch)