Moral Politics:

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What do conservatives know that liberals don't? According to George Lakoff, they know that American politics is about morality and the family. Moral Politics takes a fresh look at how we think and talk about politics and shows that political and moral ideas develop in systematic ways from our models of ideal families. Lakoff reveals how family-based moral values determine views on such diverse issues as crime, gun control, taxation, social programs, and the environment. He shows why it is consistent for ...
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Overview

What do conservatives know that liberals don't? According to George Lakoff, they know that American politics is about morality and the family. Moral Politics takes a fresh look at how we think and talk about politics and shows that political and moral ideas develop in systematic ways from our models of ideal families. Lakoff reveals how family-based moral values determine views on such diverse issues as crime, gun control, taxation, social programs, and the environment. He shows why it is consistent for conservatives to oppose subsidies for the poor but endorse them for business, or for liberals to oppose the death penalty but support abortion. He also explains why liberal and conservative stances contain the constellations of policies they do. Drawing on studies showing that we think in terms of metaphorical concepts, Lakoff analyzes the language of political discourse and finds it rife with metaphors. He shows how both liberals and conservatives link morality to politics through the concept of family. But they diverge in their opposing ideas of what an ideal family is. Conservative metaphors are united by the concept of a patriarchal family in which the parent's role is to develop self-discipline in the child by enforcing strict rules. By contrast, liberals view caring interaction in the family as the most effective means of creating competent and responsible children.
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Editorial Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle
[Moral Politics] isn't just an 'issue-by-issue debate'. . . . [It is an] unusual mix of judicious scholarship, tendentious journalism and inflammatory wake-up call.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this book, Lakoff, a professor of linguistics and cognitive science at UC-Berkeley and author of Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things, examines the 'unconscious system of concepts' underlying American political discourse. Basing his contention on a rhetorical analysis of that discourse, Lakoff argues that what conservatives know that liberals don't is that American politics is about family values. He observes that conservatives and liberals have very different notions of what constitutes an ideal family: while conservatives gravitate to the 'Strict Father' model, wherein a strict, patriarchal structure is meant to foster responsibility in children, liberals favor the 'Nurturant Parent' scenario, which prefers open, caring family interaction. Conservatives, Lakoff contends, have developed their own partisan moral-political concepts and language-a metaphor-based discourse that harkens to the conservative family model-while liberals have failed to do so. This is a failing Lakoff adduces to liberalism's Enlightenment tradition. In order to counter conservatives, he writes, liberals 'must get over their view that all thought is literal and that straightforward rational literal debate on an issue is always possible.' In the final, most interesting chapters of the book, Lakoff argues that liberalism is empirically superior to conservatism, offering proof in the form of childrearing studies and other research. Moral Politics is written in a dry, academic style, but it offers an intelligent take on the way politics is conducted in America.
Booknews
Lakoff (linguistics and cognitive science, UC-Berkeley) demonstrates that political and moral ideas develop in systematic ways from society's models of ideal families. He explains why liberal and conservative stances contain their specific constellations of policies, and analyzes the language of political discourse, drawing on studies showing that we think in terms of metaphorical concepts. Of interest to political thinkers on both the left and the right. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
A study, part academic and part popular, of the differences in moral conceptual systems that underlie the conservative-liberal debate. If your baby cries at night, do you pick him up? The answer to that question, suggests cognitive scientist Lakoff (University of California, Berkeley), is the single best indicator of liberal or conservative values. Driven by curiosity about how liberals and conservatives can 'seem to be talking about the same things and yet reach opposite conclusions' and why conservatives 'like to talk about discipline and toughness, while liberals like to talk about need and help,' Lakoff sets out to discover where the difference lies in the two moral visions. He finds it in models of the family and of family-based values: Conservatives favor the 'Strict Father' model, while liberals conceive of the family as a 'Nurturant Parent.' That difference, Lakoff argues, yields systems of logic so disparate that liberals and conservatives cannot even begin to understand their opponents' reasoning on issues like abortion, welfare, capital punishment, and gay rights. That much is, on the surface, reasonable enough. Lakoff's argument steers onto more controversial ground, however, when he suggests that 'conservatives have a deeper insight into their worldview than liberals have into theirs,' inasmuch as conservatives talk constantly of family values whereas liberals shy from discussions of hearth-and-home morality. The 'new understanding of American politics' that he proposes, not surprisingly, favors conservative values. Lakoff concludes with the observation that 'public political discourse is so impoverished at present that it cannot accommodate' discussions of matters likefamily-based moralities—unless, that is, liberals and conservatives begin to develop a 'meta-language' that will enable them to speak of such things. That conservatives and liberals see the world differently comes as no news to most, but Lakoff's look into just why that should be so makes for interesting reading.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226467962
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 5/15/1996
  • Pages: 413
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.76 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 The Minds and Politics 3
2 The Worldview Problem for American Politics 24
3 Experiential Mortality 41
4 Keeping the Moral Books 44
5 Strict Father Morality 65
6 Nurturant Parent Morality 108
7 Why We Need a New Understanding of American Politics 143
8 The Nature of the Model 153
9 Moral Categories in Politics 162
10 Social Programs and Taxes 179
11 Crime and the Death Penalty 197
12 Regulation and the Environment 210
13 The Culture Wars: From Affirmative Action to the Arts 222
14 Two Models of Christianity 245
15 Abortion 263
16 How Can You Love Your Country and Hate Your Government? 271
17 Varieties of Liberals and Conservatives 283
18 Pathologies, Stereotypes, and Distortions 310
19 Can There Be a Politics without Family Values? 322
20 Nonideological Reasons for Being a Liberal 335
21 Raising Real Children 339
22 The Human Mind 366
23 Basic Humanity 379
Epilogue: Problems for Public Discourse 384
References 389
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