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View Diary: Book review: Anat Shenker-Osorio's 'Don't Buy It' (136 comments)

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  •  thanks for the substantive critique (0+ / 0-)

    I really appreciate the time that's evident in the crafting of this comment; this issue is way to important not to get right and so serious dialogue about how to do so is most welcome.

    "Endorse" is an interesting word. I'm not running for anything.

    Also, I'm not sure how it's possible for you to have seen excerpts -- no one beyond the folks sent an advance copy have access to the book. Perhaps you mean previous reports and articles I've written?

    In my analysis, as I was trained in working with George and other brilliant scholars in the field, I examined the language produced by an array of people to uncover how people actually reason about the economy. Just as you can't follow when I say "things are looking West" or "he was East", because there's no underlying model for good is West/bad is East, we can't invent models from scratch. (Incidentally, as you likely know, good is up/bad is down is the metaphor I'm departing from -- "down in the dumps" "things are looking up.")

    So, first there's the question of whether the garden occurs as a metaphor for the American English speaker. And, a variant of it -- what I'd call a crop, does. Not often, and not by lay folks -- i.e. non-economists. This should give us pause about how well it does at explaining the complex topic we seek to make coherent.

    But your substantive point about whether it transmits all we need it to is far more important.

    In Nick and Eric's book (which I have read as they kindly sent me a copy when it first came out), there seems to be a conflation of the source and target domains of the metaphor for which they advocate. At times, they are looking for ideas and language to resurrect democracy and/or government. At others, the economy is the target domain. Clearly, the same metaphor can't work for both as they each need to be present in the frame of the other.

    Restricting this already too long comment to the economy question alone, then, I would ask what the entailments are of the garden. In so far as it conveys requiring continuous external supervision (tending, as they'd say), it's great. When, however, they veer into "ecosystem" talk I continue to believe that's not helpful. I can't imagine something more self-regulating than an ecosystem -- not a concept we need people to continue to believe about our economy.

    I'm surprised to see the word "shreds" in relation to the memo. This was neither my intent nor is it my perception of how I critiqued their claims. I too embrace many of their points -- and, in fact, cite their brilliant analysis of "government spending" as dangerous misunderstanding of what it means to put money where it's most assuredly needed in the book.

    My book is based on over three years of analysis of language data -- from the media, non-economists discussing financial concerns, pop culture sources (transcripts of film and tv), academic speech and, yes, the 40 expert interviews you mentioned -- among them Nobel laureates and progressive heroes. The idea with this last source was to uncover the unconscious assumptions experts have about the economy that not only allow but help them to reason to decidedly progressive policy preferences. The hypothesis with this is -- if these folks who "get" this topic reason to these conclusions, what is it they assume is true about the economy (how it works, what improves it, etc)? And, how do we activate that reasoning in more people who don't have PhDs in econ?

    Whether this plus the written data analysis was an adequate or correct approach is open to discussion. I would hope all research methods are.

    In fact, we don't actually have to debate about this theoretically. We can test it! And I would love to do so. Recreating a much used priming technique, basically exposing one group to one metaphor and another to the other, and then seeing how this impacts their beliefs and judgments and, most importantly, their policy preferences.

    I would welcome the chance for this. As I said, it's too important not to get right.

    --Anat

    •  The power of metaphors (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jillwklausen

      ... lies in their ability to resonate with existing value frames and produce emotional responses.

      In that sense, it does serve progressive causes to talk about the economy using metaphors of agency and responsibility, to energize the construct of "economy" beyond passivity.

      But it's absurd to suggest that mechanistic models are the best and preferred metaphors, and that organic metaphors, such as gardens, are harmful.

      Jill is absolutely right that we must focus messaging and framing on the persuadable middle. It's completely irrelevant how economists think--it's no surprise that they like mechanistic metaphors: that's how they learn, teach, and write about economies.

      Organic language and metaphors work better: the need to be responsible stewards of the land, to achieve balance in tending gardens, to see interdependencies, and to calibrate responses in recognition of cycles and seasons and external inputs. These all reinforce progressive themes AND they emphasize agency and responsibility. Most of all, they resonate with non-urban America, where the persuadable middle lives.

      Our cause: a More Perfect Union.

      by Roby NJ on Tue Aug 28, 2012 at 10:27:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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