Sunday, June 15, 2008

Where right is left and left is right

Both George Lakoff's new book, The Political Mind, and Leonard Boasberg's review, which appears in this weekend's Philadelphia Inquirer, make claims that further perpetuate anti-left-brain stereotypes.

The first is to claim that political campaigns based on analyzing facts, figures, and policies don't work, because most people, quoting Boasberg on Lakoff, think in "frames, metaphors, and symbols." 

From here, it's a slippery slope to giving up on rational debate altogether.

The second is to equate, again quoting Boasberg on Lakoff, "the essence of progressive morality" with empathy, or nurturing parents, and "conservative thought," which Lakoff considers "profoundly antidemocratic," with obedience to an authority figure, or "decider," assumed to know "right from wrong."

From here, it's a slippery slope to saying that any commitment to objective analysis and correct answers, particularly if it involves criticizing instead of nurturing, is inherently reactionary and antidemocratic. Particularly since so many people in the worlds of education and the humanities have been promulgating such notions for years.

Of course, that's why Lakoff's political metaphors serve him so well.  

On the other hand, they ignore:

1. The free-market and libertarian wings of the political right, which are more anti-authoritarian than most progressives.

2. The transcendent nature of the cult of personality, which, historically, has arisen as much on the political left as it has on the political right.

But would a book equating left-brain thinking with leftist politics and right-brain thinking with rightist politics sell as well as Lakoff's?

1 comment:

Catherine Johnson said...

The second is to equate, again quoting Boasberg on Lakoff, "the essence of progressive morality" with empathy, or nurturing parents, and "conservative thought," which Lakoff considers "profoundly antidemocratic," with obedience to an authority figure, or "decider," assumed to know "right from wrong."

Yeah, well, let me tell you.

Three years inside a middle school and you find out just how democratic a "nurturing parent" who is not in fact your parent is.

The whole problem with the "nurturing parent" concept is: what happens when the nurtured don't want to be nurtured or experience the nurturing on offer as distinctly unnurturing?

Answer: smiley face goes away.

A nurturing parent figure is nothing if not a decider.