Monday, February 23, 2009

Outline of Moral Politics - Lakoff

1. What is the basic questions: Lakoff’s basic question that he is trying to answer is what divides conservatives and liberals when they are talking about politics, and how does this division relate back to metaphors we use to explain life.
2. What are the key themes, arguments and findings:
a. Themes:
i. Conservatives use the strict father model of family
ii. Liberals use the nurturing family model
iii. These family models directly relate to the metaphors that people use to explain and understand politics – and shape their own opinions.
iv. Without understanding the different models, you cannot understand the various political positions that people take.
1. He doesn’t use neutral terminology as you read. When you read his descriptions, the feeling you get about the Strict Father is that it is bad, dark and negative – mainly because he doesn’t associate a lot of positives with it. Whereas the feeling after reading the nurturing family model is more positive and rosy.
b. Arguments:
i. Lakoff argues that which family model you use defines your political choices.
ii. The two family models cannot be intertwined, and there are only a few deviations from these central models.
iii. Conservative and liberal “family models” relate directly to Republican and Democrats – although I would change this and say that they relate to the Religious Right and the Far Left.
iv. Whichever family model you choose, you also receive the associated metaphors – which explain various attitudes on various social, economic and moral issues.
v. You can use more than one family type in your life – just not more than one in each portion of your life.
1. I think he’s wrong here. I think that people can use the Strict Father model for most politics, but then use the Nurturing family model for social issues.
c. Findings:
i. He uses the metaphors that arise out of each type of family to explain how conservatives and liberals – really R’s and D’s – explain and see each issue (framing).
3. How was the argument constructed:
a. The argument was constructed using social cognitive theory: which says that underlying all the arguments is “common sense” or a way that people view the world which may be unconscious but is still a deliberate and distinctive model.
b. His theory, as he says (p.17) must explain:
i. Analysis of mode of reasoning
ii. How those models of reasoning fit together
iii. How different forms of each model are really related to the same model (radial categories and central categories)
iv. Show the link between forms of political reasoning and forms of moral reasoning (which he does through his metaphors)
v. How moral reasoning in politics is ultimately based on models of the family
vi. Must show how the models fit together – and why we don’t have random political thinking.
4. How does this advance our knowledge of the topic: This book advances one possible view into how to relate ideas between conservatives and liberals because if you understand where someone is reasoning from, you can more accurately fit your words into their “frames” and so work with them, rather than have them simply throw out your ideas because they do not fit their world view.
5. How do this week’s readings fit with other week’s: Last week’s readings were on characteristics that are particular to conservatives and liberals, although it was more of “these are the characteristics” rather than “these are the characteristics and here is how they are used in politics.” This week’s reading was also about particular characteristics of liberals and conservatives – the model of family that each uses and how if affect their political thought.
6. What is missing? How do current/recent events fit with the topic: I think what is missing is explaining how you get Libertarians, or people who combine aspects of both – who use the strict father model but then use Liberation theology or some other liberal social theory. Also missing is any conception of why these models might not hold, or how personality can overcome the model (Obama election et al).
7. What interesting issues, ideas or related findings came to your mind as you were reading:
a. How would both sides respond to the bailout in Lakoff’s idealized world?
b. How would both sides respond to the California budget situation?
i. Raising taxes
ii. Cuts
iii. Banking on federal bailout money
c. Why do these fit so well together, and why do people think that there cannot be a combination of the two to create a new model?
d. Why are the ideas presented as mutually exclusive?

Ch. 1 – The Mind and Politics
- Contemporary politics is about worldview.
- The political division between red/blue (Republican/Democrat – not conservative/liberal as he writes) is based on morality.
- Morality is based on the type of family model you have – Structure (Strict father) vs. Nurturance (Nurturing model).
- These models explain what conservatives and liberals call “common sense,” which is simply ideas based at such a deep level that people may not be aware of it.
Ch. 2 – The Worldview Problem for American Politics
Raises questions to be answered about conservative and liberal ideologies; questions each side has about each other; what positions “group” together to be liberal and conservative.
- Why do conservatives think that virtue and morality should be indentified with their political agenda and what view of morality do they profess?
o Conservatives don’t conceptualize regulation as a form of protection – only interference.
- Liberals also hold contradictory positions (Lakoff presents this as a series of questions and not as a morality puzzle (which is just part of his mistreatment of the two) although liberals also hold moral positions on their issues).
- So what cognitive scientists do is:
o Satisfy 2 conditions with a theory: (1) the worldviews must make the collections of political stands on each side into two natural categories; (2) descriptions for these two categories must show why, what is a puzzle for one side isn’t for the other.
o Also must explain the topic choice, word choice and discourse forms for liberals and conservatives.
- Basic claim of the book – morality comes from family, so morality in politics comes from family.
Ch 3 –
The basis for all metaphors in morality.
- Political perspectives are derived from morality – which is derived from your family model.
- Moral action causes good things.
- Immoral action causes ill-being or hurt.
- It is how you characterize hurt and good that makes your morality.
Ch 4- Keeping the Moral Books (Moral Accounting)
The most basic metaphor for morality.
- The most basic way we understand morality is through accounting metaphors – I owe you, you owe me, I am in your debt, they wrote a check they cannot cash etc.
- The metaphor: Well-Being as Wealth.
- Types of moral accounting
o Reciprocation – you do something for me I owe you and visa-versa.
o Restitution – you do something bad, you need to do something good to account for it
o Retribution (lawful authority) and Revenge (unlawful authority or personal) – you do something to me and I am going to do something equally bad to you.
- You can gain “moral credit” with altruism – you do something good without getting anything in return.
- Metaphors for work (54-55)
- Metaphors for rights and duties (56-59)
- Fairness (59-62)
Ch 5-Strict Father Morality
Strict Father model.
- Background view: life is difficult and the world is fundamentally dangerous.
- Assumption: That the exercise of authority is moral in and of itself
o So if someone isn’t exercising authority morally, the metaphor breaks down.
- Reward and punishment are necessary because you need them to be self-disciplined and controlled.
- What kind of moral world?
o Meritocracy (based on how hard you work – concept of the American Dream)
o Hierarchy (based in authority)
- Responsibilities of those in authority (p. 70)
- Related metaphors (p.71)
- Moral Strength (72)
o Built two ways: through self-discipline to meet your hardships and difficulties and through self-denial to further self-discipline
o Metaphor of moral strength
§ Being good is being upright
§ Being bad is being low
§ Doing evil is falling/failing
§ Evil is a force
§ Morality is strength
- He uses morality as if it is a dirty word – which it isn’t
- Structure of system – p. 99
- Priorities in system:
o Moral strength
o Moral self-interest
o Moral nurturance
Ch 6-Nurturant Parent Model
Nurturing parent model.
- Model – p. 109
- Morality as empathy, nurturance
- Priorities in system
o Nurturance group
o Self-interest group
o Strength group
o Notice the variation in terms from the SFM
Ch 7-Why We Need A New understanding of American Politics
Why such an analysis is needed and where previous analysis has failed.
- Three analytical failures of liberals
o Conservative is the ethos of selfishness
o Conservatives just believe in less government
o Conservatism is a conspiracy of the ultra-rich
- Three principal conservative descriptions of conservatism
o Against big government
o For traditional values
o What the Bible tells us
Ch 8- Nature of the Model
Explanitory nature of the model.
- Based on the ‘Nation as Family metaphor”
o Nation is a family
o Government is parents
o Citizens are children
Ch 9-
Moral categories brought about by the two systems.
- Conservatives have moral actions, ideal citizen and demons
- Liberal have moral actions, ideal citizens and demons
Ch 10- Social Programs and taxes
Ch 11- Crime and Punishment and Death Penalty
Ch 12 – Regulation and Environment
Ch 13- Culture Wars: Affirmative Action and the Arts
- Gay rights
- Standards
- education
Ch 14- Two models of Christianity
- strict father Christianity
- nurturing parent Christianity
Ch 15- Abortion
Ch 16- Love Country, hate government
Ch 17- Varieties of Liberals and Conservatives
Variations within the conservatives and liberals.

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