We have just seen that from the perspective of analytic philosophy, the transformation of ‘talent’ from a rigid designator to an accidental one had serious implications for the causal relations that obtain between the term and its referents in the actual world. In this chapter, we approach the same shift from the perspective of anthropological semiotics, concerning ourselves with practical, observable changes rather than their logical and philosophical implications. The tradition of anthropological semiotics is one in which words are analysed in terms of their usefulness (and particular uses) within a given cultural setting, especially settings unfamiliar to the analyst. I will show that what we can describe philosophically as an accidental designator can also be described linguistically and semiotically as an ‘empty signifier’, an expression that is used as if it referred concretely when in fact it does not. Terms of this kind often have important cultural uses even where they lack everyday referential uses, and especially interesting here is the fact that these cultural uses are often a matter of a word having magical or religious significance, of the sort that might be described in terms of reference to explicitly non-actual possible worlds. The semiotic analysis I present here suggests that ‘talent’, as it is used in the culture of contemporary management and management research, is an empty signifier of this magical or religious kind.
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- The Accidental Term ‘Talent’ in an Anthropological Semiotic Perspective
- Palgrave Macmillan UK