i read george lakoff’s book on sunday, a dissection of the conceptual framework and language of this nation’s conservatives, and an analysis of the disarray in that of the progressives. there is a quick pr?Â©cis of his core concept of framing over on his rockridge institute site (and it looks like most of the book could be gleaned by reading through all the articles over there). he lays out the progressive worldview and the conservative one as family metaphors, the nurturant family and the strict father family respectively.
he argues that there are six types of progressives:
From sociological or political perspectives, there seem to be dozens, if not hundreds, of types of liberals and progressives. But from a cognitive perspective, defined by modes of thought, there are just six:
1. Socio-economic: All issues are a matter of money and class.
2. Identity Politics: Our group deserves its share now.
3. Environmentalists: Respect for the earth and a healthy future.
4. Civil Libertarians: Freedoms are threatened and have to be protected.
5. Spiritual progressives: Religion and spirituality nurture us and are central to a fulfilling life.
6. Anti-authoritarians: We have to fight the illegitimate use of authority.
All of the types of progressives are right. They all share a commitment to nurturant values, but prioritize different ones. Often this is a source of tension, since a person who strongly identifies with one type may not see how the others are similar. The key to forging unity is to see that each type is a special case of a more general identity grounded in a moral system that links all progressives together.
my politics are divided into 1, 3, 4, and 6, probably in equal measure, but if i could only take one with me to a deserted island, it would be anti-authoritarianism. this is probably not the best focus to have if you want to be pragmatic in your politics, and i realized that i have to work on this.
lakoff stresses the importance for progressives to become clear on what it is that unites us. his starting point was examining his own politics and those of conservatives and realizing that he was opposed to almost every position they hold, even though the links between those positions was not immediately apparent. that is for the most part where i am.
i have a rebellious, counterculture background and nature, and i have to work on finding the common ground i share with other progressives, and defining what that underlying worldview is, rather than what it isn’t. constantly reacting against what another group stands for is limited, but that’s what progressives and the democratic party are largely doing these days. i have definitely fallen prey to it, only because i find it impossible to believe that people in this country have gone along with this administration in the face of overwhelming factual evidence that they have lied about nearly everything. that is another of lakoff’s strong arguments: if the facts don’t match the conceptual frameworks they are presented in, then the facts are going to be discarded. put another way, people will vote for the easy to grasp soundbite version of an issue over a long list of overwhelming and compelling evidence to the contrary if the short version fits neatly into the established worldview of the voter.
i am not entirely convinced of the appeal of the nurturant/strong father metaphor and some of the language lakoff has chosen as suggestions for reframing political debate, but i absolutely agree with his underlying arguments.