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on April 4, 2013
Lakoff rushed this out for the 2004 presidential election. It's a collection of essays and transcripts about the use of framing--providing the context and comparisons by which a subject is evaluated--in politics and the notion that the conservative and liberal wings of American politics differ in their understanding of the metaphor that "America is a family."

Both of these concepts are well worth reading. The implication are both deep and wide. But this book was intended as a quick-start primer for people trying to discuss the election and maybe a foot in the door for Lakoff's research to reach campaign staff. It was not especially successful at either.

If you read it for what it is, a collection of material on the same subject and inherently repetitive, it's not bad at all. It makes excellent bathroom reading. It is light on jargon and completely ignores definitions, detailed explanations, or anything else "textbooky"--a welcome change from Lakoff's better-known books.

If you want to really understand the material, though, in a way that you can apply in your personal or professional life, you need to read Moral Politics, his detailed lay explanation of the principles. It's also pretty readable and it tried to avoid covert bias (by moving all the biased material he could recognize to one chapter towards the end, called "Why I am a Progressive"), while Don't Think of an Elephant is openly biased throughout.

I bought 10 copies of this for my friends, mostly my friends who disagree with me on politics. I wanted us to have a framework and language to understand one another and it has been invaluable. But Moral Politics is the real thing.
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VINE VOICEon March 3, 2006
Of course people have values and cognitive frames, which are used in speech and understanding. The author makes the rather startling claim that progressives are somehow deficient in these areas. He contends that the explanation for the rise of so-called conservative political forces is their greater attention to packaging values within frameworks that appeal to their supporters. The book is also a follow-up to his previous work that suggests that the moral stances of "the strict father" versus the gender-neutral "nurturant parent" account for conservative, liberal alignments. Frames exist within the context of those two basic models.

One can appreciate the insightful construction of the moral models without buying into the "progressives are deficient" notion when their ideas and values are being expressed. Frankly, the quality of the ideas being expressed by the two moral camps could easily lead one to the opposite conclusion. The conservative appeal seems to be based on simplistic and incomplete thinking, short-term focus, and manipulation. The propaganda and spin that is constantly spewed from the conservative side are types of framing, not worthy of emulation. A progressive stance of dealing with complexity and long-term and widespread consequences is far preferable to the construction of pleasing frames that conceal as much as they reveal.

A democracy must rely upon the wisdom of citizens and the full discussion of ideas and not their subversion through pleasing packaging, which certainly seems to be a use for "framing." Progressives need to get out their ideas, quit pandering to the right, and not waste their time trying to find the right codes or frames for their ideas.
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on November 1, 2013
I had heard of that book, and when I looked for it I saw it was offered as an audio book, fairly cheap too for a 4 CD brand new album. I'm amazed at the quality of the narration by a George Wilson who is so clear that I, being French, can understand every single word. As to George Lakoff's demonstration, although it refers mostly to the Bush pre-reelection, I think it illuminates lots of political practices that not only apply to American history and politics but to far more widespread phenomena. (Although I think family values and their identification with patriotism are more embedded in the theocratic culture of the United States than in the European, and certainly French ones).
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on January 29, 2013
While preparing for an accidental run for a state house seat, I read this to study the political mind. Sorry to say it was disappointing. Not the book, but the twisted lessons of being a successful politician. Basically you have to lie in order to win. "Framing the debate" while probably true doesn't lend itself to actually speaking to your thoughts and feelings toward particular topics-marriage equality, family planning, etc. You see? "Marriage equality" is the correct term for "gay marriage." The first somehow raises fewer hackles than the second. You can't say openly that the problem with the other side may have to do with their own insecurities about their own sexuality. One the other hand, maybe some Republican senatorial candidates in the last election cycle didn't read this book either. Otherwise we wouldn't have found out about their real understanding of female reproduction. Or lack thereof.
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on October 28, 2005
Spend just 30 minutes with this volume and all the weirdness of the politcal landscape in the last 20 years will suddently start to make sense.

Lakoff, a professor of cognitive science at UC Berkeley explains the two organizational paradigms or frames that the brain uses in understanding societal structure 1) the authoritartian frame and 2) the nurturing frame. People view family and political life through these frames. And one's political outlook tends to correllate strongly to which of these frames one relies on most in interpreting the world.

Frames are the networks of ideas or mental processes to which words, sentences, statements, propositions appeal in our brains. When statements cannot be interpreted inside a frame, the mind simply ignores them. This explains how we make sense of things, by filtering out clutter. But it also explains how magicians and politicians use misdirection to fool us about what is happening.

Lakoff suggests that the far right has cleverly hijacked our use of language to prejudice our views by applying Orwellian frames. Clear Sky Initiative, for instance, is Bush language for a body of law that makes it less expensive for a number of industries to pollute the air. He has also anylized the political actions of the right and he presents a precis of their 'strategic initiatives,' issues, and tactics. He explains how these make sense inside the authoritarian frame. He suggests a few initiatives for progressives and some wise methods for restoring language usage so it is no longer divisive or misleading.

Anyone who is confused or frustrated by the quality, tone, content, or usefulness of political discourse at any time since 1980 must read this book. Highly Recommended.
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on August 14, 2009
This book was recommended to me by a friend of mine. I found it an interesting read, and useful in the sense of remembering how to frame a debate. Should be useful advice for nearly anyone in the business of persuasion. I found it particularly timely to read, given the ongoing healthcare discussion. It works very well if you take this book and use it as a lens for evaluating a current conversation in the public sphere

This is a short book, and to the point. It is clearly designed as a handbook for how to have a discussion with the center, and not a philosophical or political tract. And it works, so that's okay.

I'm curious to read more Lakoff. Can anyone recommend some of his other works for me?
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on October 6, 2014
Read this if you want to understand better the underlying psychology and need systems that drive the current tribal like mentality ( using mostly fear ) that is being used to drive the political/social schisms of today. Helps explain how the far right can induce people to actually vote against their own best interests and well being. Promoted through a well planned ( albeit not rational ) platform that has been carefully cultivated for over 25 years . Amazing ! An updated edition being released in 2014.
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on December 28, 2004
Many of the negative comments regarding the book, e.g. "[Lakoff] fails to provide very much compelling advice for liberals," disappoint me due to their lack of perspective. Lakoff's book is not a complete solution and I don't think it claims to be. The book is just a tool and so are the ideas contained therein.

Some seem to think that the book would/should contain a comprehensive list of magic words and phrases with which the Democrats could bewitch the U.S. populace. I guess: 1) I didn't expect that much for 10 bucks, and 2) I'd like to think that most Americans aren't vulnerable to a set of magic words.

For example, some complain that framing taxes as "wise investments in the future" and a "membership fee in America" "aren't really as snappy as 'tax relief'." Well, not delivered like that. That would just be exchanging an uninspiring list of programs for a uninspiring list of catch phrases.

A certain amount of the work that Democrats need to do is sales. "Tax relief" didn't mean anything the first time it was said, but GOPers said it time and again and associated it with related themes, i.e. big government and waste.

Some critics also feel that the "ten word philosophy for liberals", i.e. Stronger America, Broad Prosperity, Better Future, Effective Government and Mutual Responsibility, aren't "as zingy" as the GOP philosophy and that the list puts them to sleep.

But when Barack Obama built his keynote address around the same themes they were pretty damn "zingy." They lit a freaking fire under Americans beyond traditional Democrats. And "street smart framers like Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz" weren't laughing, they were shaking in their boots.

But critics don't seem to want to make the effort of applying the contents of the book to anything outside it. They want the book to have "The Answer." Well, The Answer is "Work" and the book is a useful tool in that work.

The job ahead of Democrats is to communicate the values of the Democratic party in an appealing way. Lakoff recognizes that we can only accomplish that by changing the language we use.

Lakoff's ideas are tools that Democrats can use to take back the language, the context of the discussion and make Americans feel good about supporting Democrats. But because Lakoff's book is one of the first such tools, many of its critics seem to think it purports to be the *only* tool.
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on February 26, 2005
If you have ever listened to members of the current administration speak and felt like they were living in some alternative universe, then this book is for you. It explains how issues are framed from a cognitive linguistics perspective and demonstrates how facts that do not fit the frame are ignored. Read this book to understand why millions of seemingly sane, intelligent, and compassionate people voted to re-elect W. when it seemed apparent to the rest of us that being sane, intelligent, or compassionate would be enough to guarentee a vote against him.

There are weaknesses to this book. It repeats its central thesis again and again and again. While it is useful to see various applications, it is a tad irriating to have the basic premise re-explained each time. Also, the book make so many references to Lakoff's tome Moral Politics, also conveniently available for purchase on, that sometime it reads as promotional material rather than a book in and of itself. That said, this book is enough for 99% of the progressives out there to get what they need to know about this important issue. Only true politicos will want to invest in the big book.

I have purchased six copies, so far, for friends and family; each reciepient has been truly grateful. It will open your eyes.
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on May 3, 2018
Explains simple way of winning arguments, political and otherwise.
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