The Analogical Construction of Stigma as a Moral Dualism: The Case of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement

George Ferns, Aliette Lambert, Maik Günther

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We explore the global fossil fuel divestment movement to show how climate activists worked to stigmatize the fossil fuel industry using analogy. In doing so, we develop a model that illustrates how constructing a “moral dualism” is central to stigmatizing an organizational category. This involves concurrently establishing “stigmatizers” (ingroup) as morally superior and amplifying the deviancy of the fossil fuel industry (outgroup), both in relation to analogical contexts. Stigmatizers strategically employed two types of analogy: “deep” and “surface.” Deep analogies produce emotive power, facilitating the moralization of the ingroup through the transfer of affective meanings from a source context to a target domain. Surface analogies generate causal power to inform wider audiences of the target’s deviance through association with already-stigmatized organizational categories. Analogical power underpinning the morally dualistic nature of stigmatization can therefore empower fringe actors to stigmatize an incumbent as they appropriate meanings from analogical source domains.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Mar 2021

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