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Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think Second Edition Edition

111 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 097-1487840178
ISBN-10: 0226467716
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Editorial Reviews


"[An] unusual mix of judicious scholarship, tendentious journalism and inflammatory wake-up call." - Editors' Recommendation, San Francisco Chronicle; "Lakoff, the cognitive linguist, understands 'how' you understand. In Moral Politics, [he] deftly applies that seemingly arcane understanding to the heart of American politics.... His commitment is strong and deep, but his language is far from the rhetoric usually associated with political partisanship.... Even those who disagree with him will profit deeply from encountering his challenging ideas." - Paul Rosenberg, Christian Science Monitor; "Lakoff's stunning book opens a whole new understanding of public discourse in America. Both conservatives and liberals have much to learn from this work." - Robert Bellah, University of California, Berkeley

From the Inside Flap

In Moral Politics, the first full-scale application of cognitive science to politics, George Lakoff analyzes the unconscious worldviews of liberals and conservatives, explaining why they are at odds over so many seemingly unrelated issues-like taxes, abortion, regulation, and social programs. The differences, Lakoff argues, are not mere matters of partisanship, but arise from radically different conceptions of morality and ideal family life-meaning that family and morality are at the heart of American politics, in ways that are far from obvious. For this edition, Lakoff adds a preface and an afterword explaining how "moral politics" makes sense of events like the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the 2000 presidential election.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 471 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Second Edition edition (May 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226467716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226467719
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

George Lakoff is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, where he has taught since 1972. He previously taught at Harvard and the University of Michigan. He graduated from MIT in 1962 (in Mathematics and Literature) and received his PhD in Linguistics from Indiana University in 1966. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Don't Think of an Elephant!, among other works, and is America's leading expert on the framing of political ideas.

George Lakoff updates may be followed on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+. Find these links, a complete bibliography, and more at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

448 of 482 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on July 10, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Political positions are usually cast as being either "liberal" or "conservative." But what is the basis of liberalism or conservatism? How is it that conservatives, disapproving of big government, can support rolling up large deficits or extending "welfare" to corporations. Where is the logic? According to the author, the explanation lies in morality. What best explains the politics of conservatives and liberals is their fundamentally different moral worldviews. Those views are grounded in models of family morality.
The "Strict Father" model of family morality that conservatives subscribe to is based on the hierarchical authority of the father who sets and enforces rules of behavior. Children are expected to learn self-discipline, self-reliance, and respect for legitimate authority. Obedience is emphasized; questioning of authority is little tolerated. Governmental social programs are seen by conservatives as rewarding a lack of self-discipline, of failing to becoming self-reliant. However, spending for the preservation of the moral order, for protection of the "nation as family," whether it is for defense or for building more prisons, is morally required.
Liberals, on the other hand, subscribe to a "Nurturant Parent" model. Children become responsible, self-disciplined, and self-reliant through being cared for, respected, and, in turn, caring for others. Open communications is emphasized; even the questioning of authority by children is seen as positive. Desired behavior is not obtained through punishment. Empathy and a regard for fair treatment are priorities in this model. Social programs are seen by liberals as helping both individuals and the greater society. The maintenance of fairness is a priority for government.
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58 of 59 people found the following review helpful By C. Daley III on May 17, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Liberals and Conservatives seem to agree on little. Even the strongest arguments on each side are brushed off as irrelevant by the other. Lakoff has contributed a significant work into the question of why and has begun to build a bridge across that chasm.

First off, it must be said that Lakoff is liberal, notes that it introduces bias into his research, and works hard to keep that bias out of his book (until the end and he warns you it's coming). At its core, he seems to have succeeded in building two frameworks that are largely accurate, the Strict Father (conservative) and Nurturing Mother (liberal) moral foundations. Since I fall closer to the conservative framework, I can only say that I find his explanation of the liberal approach insightful and interesting. Since our national debate so rarely addresses these fundamental beliefs, it has always been difficult to understand the differing perspectives among groups of Americans. Lakoff has helped bring light to this side of the debate.

Unfortunately, Lakoff could not completely overcome his bias. He goes so far as to assert that the conservative moral system necessarily requires stern corporal punishment (using brutally violent allusions) and is, by definition, sexist and racist. I find this characterization insulting and more importantly inaccurate. Despite this inaccuracy, I have to give the book an excellent rating (4) because it is so groundbreaking in its attempt to communicate these very different frameworks.

If you decide to read the book, let me offer a slight refinement of his view which may help a liberal reader better understand the broader conservative perspective and a conservative reader get past his bias.
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94 of 101 people found the following review helpful By audrey pierce TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
George Lakoff has done some important work in the cognitive sciences, the dominant psychological paradigm, which contends, unlike earlier behaviorist thought, that the brain does not merely respond to phenomena in a simple stimulus-response reaction, but rather processes information, adding form and context before outputting a response.
Lakoff posits first that we often think of our country as a family, secondly that conservatives think of the ideal family as one with a Strong Father (stressing authority and obedience) and that liberals think of the ideal family as having Nurturant Parents (stressing communication and self-reliance), and contends furthermore that people extend these attitudes about family and government to their political philosophy. He goes on to explain and predict liberal and conservative thinking, sometimes even contradictory thinking, on the death penalty, corporate welfare, conservation, abortion, gun control, fiscal responsibility, minority rights and other contemporary issues.
Lakoff writes clearly and makes coherent points. I thought this was an interesting and predictive way of discussing current political differences. A self-declared liberal who nevertheless maintains a reasonably objective authorial stance, Lakoff advises liberals to couch their political arguments in the same moral terms that conservatives have been using successfully for years. Liberals are neither immoral nor amoral, as often depicted by Tom Delay, Newt Gingrich and other extremist conservative; they need to make that known and enter the political discussion on those terms.
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