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View Diary: Book Review: George Lakoff's "Whose Freedom?" (185 comments)

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  •  I don't think that nurturant parent is (8+ / 0-)

    . . . what we should be offering Americans as a counter to the right's strict father - and I don't really think that is what Lakoff is suggesting. I, fwiw, think he has been widely misunderstood on this point.

    I think he discusses those two family models to explain why some people - those who were shaped by a strict father family - are susceptible to the authoritarianism, and other people are not - those who grew up in a family where both parents strove to inculcate self-discipline and responsibility in their children rather than blind obedience. And in my experience, with the usual exceptions for those who successfully resisted their toxic upbringing, that seems to be true.

    With that out of the way - how our upbringing affects whether we embrace the central worldview of the right or left, why we are what we are - he wants to go on to what the left has to offer. Working together, America as a team, with mutual respect for each other, stronger, more creative, more innovative, healthier, rather than the dog - eat - dog, I've got mine screw you, social darwinism of the right. And to start the conversation on the left on how we can get people - in these days of endless spin and propaganda - to hear what we are saying.

    The only thing Republicans do well is take our tax dollars and transfer them to the rich, instead of providing the services we thought we were paying for.

    by Janet Strange on Sun May 20, 2007 at 09:20:27 AM PDT

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    •  Agreed (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Janet Strange, Allogenes

      I get the idea the language is more about explaining our values to ourselves than it is about going on the road and telling America we need to be more "nurturing."

      But it still has an ick factor for me. (This also may have to do with the gender stereotyping of the categories, which is not what he meant at all, I'm sure. These are "models" and not meant to be understood in the real world as oriented toward either gender, but I still balk at that instinctive hurdle created by the language.)

      •  Gender stereotypes (3+ / 0-)
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        Allogenes, gatordem, Akonitum

        I find it very revealing that when people discuss Lakoff's ideas, they so often misquote him as contrasting "strict father" with "nurturant mother." When  in fact, one of his central points is that the family models he sees are male domination of the family (including the mother) vs. an equal partnership between husband and wife.

        The only thing Republicans do well is take our tax dollars and transfer them to the rich, instead of providing the services we thought we were paying for.

        by Janet Strange on Sun May 20, 2007 at 09:34:38 AM PDT

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        •  The problem is (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rebecca, TN yellow dog, Allogenes

          In our culture, it's almost impossible NOT to (mis)read this contrast in way you mention.  From the strict father frame, ANY other model represents the triumph of the mommy and the humiliation of the father.  It's an awful, harmful way of looking at things, but Lakoff is a language and cognition specialist and he needs to realize that he can add all the nuance and caveats that he wants and it won't make a whit of difference.  The existing "mommy party vs. daddy party" frame is too strong and any attempt to nuance it won't work---at least not now, not here.  The nuanced version will only be absorbed by the bad strong frame and reinforce it.

          What is needed, as some have suggested here, is a very different frame, one that cannot be "absorbed" by existing frames that are proven to work for the right.

          "Let blockheads read what blockheads wrote." -- Lord Chesterfield

          by Fatherflot on Sun May 20, 2007 at 09:43:34 AM PDT

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          •  Excellent point (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Fatherflot, Allogenes

            I really admire what Lakoff is trying to do, and I think he's right how the structure and values of the families we grew up affect whether the right or left view of "how the world is" resonates with us.

            And I think, as I said upthread, I don't think he is proposing that we offer a "mommy party" or even a "nurturant parent" party as a political philosophy or platform. I think he's trying to talk about how we convey our true political values and goals for this country effectively. And that the "we'll just explain the facts" approach simple does not work. Frames are real, we all have them, and like he says, facts that don't fit in our frames simply bounce off of them. I mean, everyone does this. Can anyone here on the "reality based" left honestly say that they've never uncritically embraced something that reinforced their pre-existing point of view, or reflexively discounted information that was contrary to their deeply held beliefs? I catch myself doing it all the time. It's human nature.

            So I think he wants to talk about how to shift frames -  sort of an Overton window type of discussion, but where the Overton window applies to a society as a whole, he wants to look at this process in terms of what happens in the individual as their frames change.

            And he can't do that without looking at how those frames got to be what they are. He can rightly be criticized for being too simplistic with his binary view of families (though I think he does discuss at some length that it is too simplistic, and that real families are invariably more complex), but I do think he's on to something as far as at least part of the explanation of why authoritarianism and "freedom from" appeals to a lot of people.

            Your right - he does trigger a noxious frame with his "father" vs "parent" discussions. But I'm not sure how you can discuss how our families affect our worldview - and thus our frames - without doing that. And I think that simply leaving families, and how we grew up, would leave out something important.

            The only thing Republicans do well is take our tax dollars and transfer them to the rich, instead of providing the services we thought we were paying for.

            by Janet Strange on Sun May 20, 2007 at 10:28:27 AM PDT

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            •  Thanks for your thoughts! (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Janet Strange, Allogenes

              We are in almost 100% agreement about the great value of Lakoff's work.  I didn't mean to only focus on the one point of criticism that I have.

              In fact, I just got my copy back yesterday from one of my students, who read it from cover to cover, along with my copies of Zinn's "People's History of the US", Frank Rich's "Greatest Story Ever Sold" and Dean Baker's "The Conservative Nanny State."

              Bottom line:  I'm a huge Lakoff fan, despite some differences about tactics.  We need more pulic intellectuals with his kind of commitment, values, and communication skills.

              "Let blockheads read what blockheads wrote." -- Lord Chesterfield

              by Fatherflot on Sun May 20, 2007 at 10:34:42 AM PDT

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    •  Yep (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Janet Strange

      I've sort of addressed that in my reply to this thread, too.

      Question authoritarianism

      by m00nchild on Sun May 20, 2007 at 09:29:18 AM PDT

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    •  Your are mostly right (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Janet Strange, Allogenes, gatordem

      It is a mistake to take Lakoff's description of the moral worldview as "nurturant" as a suggestion for message, brand or label.

      Lakoff wanted to counter the extremist obedience and discipline values of the James Dobson's, and he is describing concepts embodied in the brain. Progressives are egalitarian and responsible. He never said that we should re-brand as, say, Democrats:  The Nurturant Party.

      Those who have attacked him for what he never did are just fighting against a more progressive agenda for progressives. It's egalitarianism, fairness, and social responsibility they don't want to embrace. They much prefer to out-strict-father the strict fathers. The DLC, for instance.

    •  Linguist not developmental psychologist (0+ / 0-)

      Lakoff's approach is more to look at how liberals and conservatives talk and what they assert. It makes no claims about what kinds of childhoods dispose one to what kinds of politics. Surely there are things to be learned in that regard, but Lakoff's work doesn't touch them.

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