Fredric Jameson writes that the term ‘the market’ has always had a dual meaning, being ‘at one and the same time an ideology and a set of practical institutional problems’.1 In this paper I argue that the ‘metanarrative’ of economics – the beneficence of the free market – is built on a central metaphor of ‘the economy as market system’ that is as ideological as it is practical. I focus on the field of international economics, where the centrality of the market metaphor has narrowed the scope of the analysis of the international economy to such an extent that economics has been unable to recognize certain important trends, much less theorize them. The exclusive focus on markets has precluded a rigorous treatment of new developments in the organization of business and the production process and in the role of the state in international transactions.