Brute force: Medieval foundation myths and three modern organizations’ quests for hegemony
By Ann Rippin and Peter Fleming
Management and organizational history, Vol.1:1 (2006)
Abstract: Foundation myths have been at the heart of western culture since classical times. Business foundation myths lie at the heart of corporate culture. Here, the nature and purpose of foundation stories are questioned, as is their status as innocent narratives.This article takes the narrative tropes of Europe’s archetypal national foundation myth, the founding of Rome, retold in the epic Latin poem, Virgil’s Aeneid, and traces their reemergence in the foundation stories of three major modern organizations.The narrative elements are the foundation of a new empire by immigrant principals, the empire inspired by a dream or vision, and the establishment of a culture superior to that of the indigenous inhabitants.The three cases are Marks and Spencer, Nike and Starbucks.While it is impossible to state that organizations consciously have recourse to this archetypal myth, a comparison of the context in which the elements of this ancient tale are retold is a lens through which to examine organizational claims to legitimacy and autonomy, in order to pursue corporate agendas unopposed.