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Whose Freedom?: The Battle Over America's Most Important Idea Hardcover – June 27, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
George Lakoff's new book is as enjoyable to read as it is important to understand. It comes at a critical time for our country. Because freedom has always been a progressive concept, it is time for progressives to reclaim the word and its meaning in today's context. Mr. Lakoff shows us how." —Former Senator Tom Daschle
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But why, one may ask, have the conservatives been winning this debate? Using insights from cognitive science, Lakoff argues that they have been better at framing the debate; indeed conservatives seemed to have grasped the tenets of cognitive science better than the progressives. Conservatives, for example, present taxes and regulation as a contraint on a person's economic freedom, as oppossed to an investment in the common good. Over the past two decades conservatives have applied this technique in the media very successfully. Frames or metaphors define the range within which we think and make decisions, and are planted in our brains by repetition in the media. As a famous example, Lakoff cites the speech by President Bush at the 2004 Republican National Convention where the president uses the terms "freedom," "free," and "liberty" 49 times in a 20 minute speech. Apparently the president is a practioner of cognitive science.
The thrust of this book is not only to show that conservatives and progressives have distinctly different ideas of freedom, but to show that the progressive ideal is the better one. He calls on progressives to start thinking more about the ideology behind the conservatives use of language and to start making innovations of their own. They have to start showing that government programs are a necessary investment in the public good and increase freedoms rather than self-perpetuating bureaucracies that restrict freedom.
Lakoff's argument goes to the core of what the Democratic Party needs to do to win elections. How they go about it will determine whether they gain voters or lose them.
I think the book could be stronger if Lakoff spent more time with the "bi-conceptual" orientation of peoples mental metaphors. I find that more mainstream Americans are bi-conceptual and it would be nice to see "ourselves" in his discussion more. The book basically stays along a binary discourse between hard-right and hard-left political ideologies. It makes the concepts clearer to understand, but it also sets the unaware reader up for thinking in terms of a false-dilemma; perhaps there are third or fourth options.
Overall, the audio book is enjoyable and I am happy it was available to me in this format. It was good for my long commutes to work and I got a lot out of getting to hear it more than once. Had it been a paperback, I might not have purchased it at all. Not because it isn't good material, but it really wasn't something high on my reading schedule. I recommend this book to political-liberals for good information. I recommend this book to political-conservatives to challenge their perspectives. Either way, it will either firm up some of one's values or help them make changes to one's they find more suitable. It really helps one to uncover some ideological blind-spots.