- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Viking Adult (May 29, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670019275
- ISBN-13: 978-0670019274
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #277,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain
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From Publishers Weekly
Lakoff (Don't Think of an Elephant) harnesses cognitive science to rally progressive politicians and voters by positing that conservatives have framed the debate on vital issues more effectively than liberals. According to his research, conservatives comprehend that most brain functioning is grounded not in logical reasoning but in emotionalism—as a result, huge portions of the citizenry accept the Republican framing of the war in Iraq and supporting the troops rather than liberal appeals and phrasing of the occupation in Iraq and squandering tax money. George W. Bush won the presidency by concocting a redemption narrative, persuading tens of millions of voters that his past moral and business shortcomings should be viewed as a prelude to pulling himself up, rather than as disqualifying behavior. While sections of the book employ technical scientific terminology, the author masterfully makes his research comprehensible to nonspecialists. His conclusion—that if citizens and policy-makers better understand brain functioning, hope exists to ameliorate global warming and other societal disasters in the making—will be of vital importance and interest to all readers. (June)
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"Kent Cassella gives an appropriately somber reading of this scholarly material." ---Library Journal Audio Review --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
We may think our decisions are rooted in logic, scientific studies, and the like, but Lakoff suggests that this is not how most voters respond to issues.
His work has been deployed by both progressives and conservatives in political campaigns, as a way of attracting voters one way or the other.
Mr. Lakoff's proposal is that liberals need to create a complete narrative, or frame, in order to sell progressive ideals. The author is encouraging liberals to take a holistic view of politics rather than address each issue piecemeal. A progressive frame would be built around empathy as opposed to the conservative frame of authority, obedience and discipline. Mr. Lakoff writes, "To get the public to adopt progressive moral position you have to activate progressive moral thought in them by openly - and constantly - stressing morality, not just the interest of demographic groups" In the past progressives have been unwittingly promoting the conservative frame by using their language with phrases like `tax burden' and `war on terror'.
I have a few issues with Mr. Lakoff's books. The first is that his books are often so similar to prior books that they seem like just rehashes. If you've read the fantastic book `Moral Politics' you pretty much get most of what's presented in `The Political Mind'. Another problem is that the author tries desperately hard to categorize conservatives and liberals into strict father and nurturing parent. I would argue that this simplification as a model fails as often as it succeeds and the author tries way too hard to try and shoehorn each group into their category. The idea that conservatives crave authority and obedience fails when you consider the conservative purported belief in smaller decentralized government. President Clinton was twice elected but conservatives had zero respect for his position of as leader and consistently accused him of overreaching his authority.
Within the same paragraph the author blasts his own argument apart when he refers to Bob Dole seeing the government as the meddling strict father interfering in the lives of his grown children and then switches immediately to Dubya Bush's claim that, as a wartime president, he can wiretap citizens at will is the case. In the later case the nation is the Family, the president is the Parent and the Citizens are the Family members. So how can Conservatives see the government as both the meddlesome parent AND the protective parent? If conservatives are so much about authority why would they stress deregulation and smaller government while turning a blind eye to Bush's power grab. My belief is that it has less to do with strict father and nurturing parent and more to do with conservatives treating politics like a contact sport. It's the Vince Lombardi philosophy that `winning isn't everything, it's the only thing'.
`The Political Mind' often reads like a textbook and that's not necessarily a criticism since it is an instruction manual on selling ideas. My only concern is that we might see increasingly sophisticated psychological warfare employed on voters from both sides targeting the very core of human thought. It's scary to think that rational thought can so easily be usurped by clever marketing.