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Picked up a couple of books yesterday at Border’s. The much hyped Freakonomics which I have yet to open and George Lakoff”s don’t think of an elephant: Know your Values and Frame the Debate, which I read through last night at one sitting ( including time for highlighting and writing marginalia) and you can too.

Don’t think of an elephant is Lakoff’s pamphleteering version of his more serious and substantive Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, which he published to help passionate but not terribly bright progressives become more articulate parrots when commenting in internet chat rooms. Snarkiness aside, Lakoff managed to convince me of several things:

a) He’s a smart man and it’s worth my time to go read his real book.

b) Like all linguistics guys, Lakoff overdoes the language as perception as reality thing.

True enough, he cautions periodically that cognitive frames require actual conceptual chains of reasoning behind them and that these must be common enough to function as a cultural reference point in order to possess political resonance but Lakoff oversetimates the effect. The whole ” Strict Father- Nurturant parent” paradigm ( which,by the way, originated with Jude Wanniski decades ago) works far better on social issues than on economic ones which actually have measurable intrinsic merits worth debating and not just normative preferences.

It also occurs to me that the whole Lakoff ” Strict Father” connection to conservative politics is merely correlative to the United States and a few other countries with the Weberian ” Protestant work ethic”. Patriarchal systems prevail in most of the societies of the world and most nations have accepted the Anglo-American capitalist model to the minimum degree possible and that only in recent decades. Some super- ” Strict Father” regimes reject it vociferously in favor of collectivist-communitarian traditional socioeconomics.

Nevertheless cognitive frames remain a useful tool to be mastered and used.

2 Responses to “”

  1. Doug Says:

    Actually, the book is called “Don’t think of an Elephant.”

  2. mark Says:

    Ha ! I appear to be ” framing” my own perceptions of a book sitting two inches from the damn keyboard ;o)

    Thanks! I’ll correct it.

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