Moral Politics: How Li...
George Lakoff
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Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  702 ratings  ·  79 reviews
In this classic text, the first full-scale application of cognitive science to politics, George Lakoff analyzes the unconscious and rhetorical worldviews of liberals and conservatives, discovering radically different but remarkably consistent conceptions of morality on both the left and right. For this new edition, Lakoff adds a preface and an afterword extending his obser
Library Binding, Second Edition
Published May 2002 by Turtleback Books (first published 1996)
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Cognitive psychologist uses a theory of metaphors to explain the political divisions in the United States c. 2000.

In Lakoff's view, conservatives prefer a strong authority 'Father Knows Best' state, where status is earned, and an objective moral standing determines success. Liberals prefer a nurturing 'Mother' state, on the idea of justice, egalitarianism and empathy. The problems in communication between these two political camps are caused by the inability to communicate, or even understand w...more
Cooper Cooper

This book might change how you think about American politics. A worldclass cognitive linguist from the University of California-Berkeley, Professor George Lakoff analyzes liberal and conservative ideology in terms of his specialty—metaphor. In America, he insists, politics is all about morality, and American morality is grounded in the metaphor of the family: conservatives champion a Strict Father morality and liberals a Nurturant Parent morality.
In Strict Father morality “father knows best”:...more
Andrew Webb
I read this book for a logic class my sophomore year of college. Following is the paper I wrote in hopes of defusing Lakoff's argument.

In Moral Politics, George Lakoff gives us two models for running a family—the strict father and the nurturant parent. He then attempts to show that these are also the conservative and liberal models for government, and explains why the nurturant parent/liberal government model is superior to its counterpart. This paper will attempt to show that his underlying su...more
In Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, George Lakoff uses the methods of cognitive linguistics-a field in which he has worked since its infancy-to explain the different worldviews that shape liberal and conservative thought, and why what seems like common sense to one seems like bunk to another. In doing so, he hopes to begin a national discussion of morality and politics and, more specifically, prove why the liberal viewpoint is better for America. In both attempts, he ultimat...more
This book presents an extremely convincing argument that the current state of politics and political discourse in the US are being shaped by similarities between how we conceptualize the relationship between government and its citizens and how we define our most basic family values. Whether or not you agree with the idea that most people formulate their political beliefs based on moral systems learned and supported in family units, after reading this for me there is no question that the values w...more
Mar 07, 2010 Richard rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Inquiring philosophical thinkers
Recommended to Richard by: Claire S
This book is about cognitive frameworks, or, more precisely: about two frameworks that plausibly explain many of the differences between liberals and conservatives.

Oddly enough, I'm still struggling with how this book interacts with my own cognitive framework. I have several pages of notes that should eventually go into a review, but Lakoff's focus on those two political perspectives was so ultimately frustrating that the book left me incredibly frustrated.

As far as the book goes, it is a fascin...more
If one of the characteristics of postmodernity is the understanding that all truths are contextually situated, then cognitive linguistics provides a more-than-adequate means for reckoning what we believe and why we believe what we believe.

The cognitive model that lies in the heart of Lakoff’s Moral Politics thoroughly illuminates the American political landscape. If you have an open mind, then reading this book will provide you with a solid framework for understanding why political discourse sin...more
Four and a half stars.

This book was the first selection for an EPA Water Permits Division book club that never really got off the ground. We never got around to discussing this book (or any other), but I found the argument very compelling and find myself recalling it often even several years later.

Lakoff's primary argument is that there is a common thread through family life and parenting styles, morality, and politics. He makes a persuasive argument that right-wing conservative polities is clos...more
This came out in 1996, and I've seen it, or its core idea, referred to so many times in newspaper articles that I felt as though I'd already read the book. Probably would have rated it higher and enjoyed it more if I'd read it when it first came out.

Basic concept is that liberal vs. conservative political views on specific issues are best understood as emanating from different metaphors for government as family -- the Strict Father (conservative) or the Nurturant Parent (liberal), not some of th...more
This is one of the best works of non-fiction I have ever read. For the first time in my life, I feel like I actually understand why conservatives think the way they do. I still don't agree with their values or views at all, but I do recognize now that it is an internally coherent worldview. Conservatives are not going to go away in America, so we better learn how to live with them and engage in dialogue that actually resembles communication, not just a trading of insults.

The basic thesis of this...more
Jon Stout
Jun 05, 2012 Jon Stout rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: liberals and conservatives
Recommended to Jon by: Nounce
Lakoff has fascinating, even exciting, insights, but his treatment is ponderous and marred by equivocations in how he approaches his subject. His basic idea is that the differences between Democrats and Republicans can be explained by different metaphors of family life used by the two sides. Lakoff says that Republicans analogize government to the “Strict Father” style of parenting, which is more authoritarian and emphasizes self-discipline and self-reliance. Similarly, Democrats analogize gover...more
Mindy King
First let me preface by saying that this book is VERY liberal biased. You know how they say the media is so liberal biased? This book may be the one completely true example of that! That being said, I really did enjoy this book a lot. It made me hate conservatives a little bit less than I did before because even if his theories about how liberals and conservatives think is wrong (which I am not convinced of), it made me realize that there MAY be some kind of twisted logic behind the way conserva...more
Should be required reading for any liberals OR conservatives who seek to thoughtfully discuss politics with their opposite number. This clearly written and thoughtful analysis of the underlying metaphors through which we all see the world provided this committed liberal with the first coherent explanation of why conservatives take the positions they do. I also found the descriptions of metaphors associated with liberal thought reasonably accurate. Overall, quite a good and useful read.
Peter Davis
Great introductory concept: moral politics is based on what clusters of conceptual metaphors we subscribe to. But, the whole middle is too confident in his attempt at guessing and stretching his descriptions of the dominant metaphor clusters. Read the start and the end for the best insights.
What a miserable book. What it boils down to is, if you're a Democrat you follow a nurturant model of government and you're effeminate; if you're a Republican you follow a punitive model and you're masculine... but we should all be effeminate. What tripe. This perpetuates culture wars.
Though I found the writing style arduous and plodding, this book really pushed me into understanding the underlying (and rational, each given their own premises) philosophy, ideology, and world views of the Conservative and the Liberal minds.
Very helpful book in understanding the sometimes baffling mind of conservatism.
This book defines a model to look at the conservative mind and the liberal mind and how they so often clash. Here are my reading notes:

# Morality
Morality is often talked about as a problem of accounting. We are indebted to others; we owe one to someone. These metaphors underlie the way we think about morality, fairness, self-righteousness, etc.

# Strict Father Morality
The conservative strict-father morality (SFM) will prioritize different metaphors from this pool of metaphors around Moral Account...more
There at points at which Lakoff, whose book served as another of our local reading group's book selection, shines through and clarifies the seemingly inherent contradictions between liberal and conservative moral views. Certainly, in the book's final hundred pages, Lakoff takes off the gloves and works to highlight how the semantic and linguistic values of moral framing has been a battle increasingly won by conservatives. For example, he explicates the Bush v. Gore decision and the outcome of th...more
George Lakoff is out to explain the political behavior of Americans

For the first third of this book, I wearily turned the pages as he built the foundation upon which he would defend his theory that it is our moral worldview that determines our political view, not the objective facts upon which arguments for or against some policy might be made. In several cases he shows conclusively how the logical conclusions on an issue have little to do with how policy on the issue is decided. Gut feelings co...more
In the body of his work, and stated in especially systematic fashion in his early book, “Moral Politics,” George Lakoff presents an intellectual framework for the next Utopia.

That Jean-Jacques Rousseau has a lot to answer for was first suggested to me, I believe, in Christopher Hudson's 1984 book, “The Killing Fields.” It was Rousseau who first dangled the hypnotic bauble of human perfectibility before the developing Enlightenment. It was only a matter of time..., and not much, either..., befo...more
Charles Moody
Lakoff’s thesis is that the political divisions in our country are so intense because they are ultimately grounded in divisions in personal morality. Conservatives approach issues from a morality of strictness, believing that, as in a strict-father family, society must have rules with consequences in order for people to develop the necessary self-discipline, self-reliance, and respect for legitimate authority. Liberals, on the other hand, begin from a morality of nurturance, believing that when...more
I find George Lakoff's work in cognitive psychology to be absolutely fascinating! His conceptualization of two family models (the strict father model and the nurturant mother model) provides a framework to view the current political polarization in the USA these days. Living with this polarization is often very difficult, and seeing the impact it can have on both sides of the division (the Republicans who think Democrats eat their young for breakfast, and the Democrats who think the Republicans...more
Michael Villasenor
I lost interest in this book about half way thru which is why it took me two years to finish. An interesting topic and Lakoff's theory is easy to understand. It became repetitive but I suppose this was a tool he used to hammer home his main thesis - conservatives view the world through a strict father morality model of the family prism and liberals through a nurturant family morality model.

The book becomes a PR manual for the Democratic Party towards the end, with the same conclusions as I've en...more
Jul 26, 2008 Larry rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody
This is a very dense, academic book with a great deal of methodical presentation of evidence for his thesis. His later book, "Don't think of an elephant" is a distillation of the ideas put forth in Moral Politics with a more direct line drawn to the U.S. political scene in 2003 and 2004.
I found it helpful to read these two books because the shorter "Elephant" is supported by the (excruciatingly) academic "Moral Politics" and "Moral Politics" is tied together nicely by "Elephant".

I know that Lak...more
A great book proposing a radical new way to view the political landscape. Rather than the typical left-right grid, Lakoff proposes that our politics represent the fundamental paradigm by which we view the world. This makes it difficult to effectively communicate between the different ideologies, because the same words mean different things--ie, we speak different languages. In order to be more persuasive in promoting our ideology, we must understand the language of the other sides, so that we ca...more
Loralie Mathews
I really liked this book. It helped clear up some confusion for me. Lakoff takes on questions like "Why do conservatives link gun control and taxes," or "Why do liberals link universal health care and the environment?" His ultimate answer is that they are connected by a set of values and metaphors that are part of the mental makeup of that person. It helped me understand some of the differences in opinion between conservatives and liberals. He relates parenting and politics in a way that is real...more
Apr 02, 2012 Robert rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any student of politics (particularly the progressive minded)
Shelves: favorites
this is a favorite of mine. as i've gone back and read it more than once (one time in particular taking extensive notes/reactions) i certainly consider it very worthy. i very much enjoyed cognitive science as applied to political ideology. of course, i believe there is much, much more to flesh out in that regard, but this book functions as a worthy foray into that area. i hope more cognitive scientists take on this subject matter: contradicting it and expaning upon it, etc, etc. this one stays i...more
A fascinating thesis: our political views can be traced to a metaphor of the state as parent. Liberals identify with the state as nurturant parent, conservatives with the state as strict parent (father). Thus, Lakoff asserts, the political language used to describe various policy proposals matters a great deal to their chances of success. He provides examples of how different issues/proposals can be framed to appeal to liberals or conservatives. The book's ideas resonated with me, but it remains...more
ended up skimming a lot of the inner chapters - they were exhaustive but somewhat repetitive and i was on a research mission. but there was an immense amount of truth to this - and not just 'cause i'm a dirty liberal.

always refreshing to read a fairly dispassionate, academic account of politics and then hear the author's actual beliefs, informed by the research he's done. i think it was dan savage who advocated that as the most effective form of journalism - as complicated as all the people who...more
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George Lakoff is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at UC Berkeley and is one of the founders of the field of cognitive science.

He is author of The New York Times bestseller Don't Think of an Elephant!, as well as Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, Whose Freedom?, and many other books and articles on cognitive science and ling...more
More about George Lakoff...
Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: The Essential Guide for Progressives Metaphors We Live By Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain

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