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ERIC Number: EJ863119
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Dec
Pages: 17
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0895-4852
George Lakoff's New Happiness: Politics after Rationality
Parrott, John B.
Academic Questions, v22 n4 p414-430 Dec 2009
Berkeley professor of linguistics and cognitive science George Lakoff is among the handful of current faculty members in the United States to have successfully recast himself as a significant figure in national politics. Though his views place rather far on the progressive left, he has, unlike some other scholar-activists, focused most of his energy on advancing the fortunes of the mainstream Democratic Party. Having eschewed the more radical views of Noam Chomsky or Bill Ayers, Lakoff remains somewhat less in the spotlight. His influence is, nonetheless, both broad and deep. Lakoff is best known for his advocacy of the idea that most people are profoundly influenced by metaphors that "frame" their decisions, including those about party registration and voting. He believes that politicians are aware of this human frailty and manipulate it to their advantage. In other words, political choices in a democracy have little to do with voters making rational and informed decisions and a great deal to do with how elites set up the "narratives." Lakoff's involvement in politics has consisted of arguing three points: (1) that Republicans have been masterful in manipulating voters by means of framing devices; (2) that Democrats possess the better arguments but have generally failed to find effective ways to frame their messages; and (3) that he, Lakoff, can help the Democrats close the metaphor gap. There is more to Lakoff than this summary suggests. Properly understood, he is heir to a tradition of radical utopian thought and has affinities with twentieth-century neo-Marxists such as Antonio Gramsci, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse, who also concerned themselves with how best to bring about revolutionary consciousness among people who seemed content without it. Towards this end, Lakoff makes some extraordinary claims by rejecting reason and rationality as they have been understood in Western thought for essentially the past twenty-five hundred years. In this essay, the author reflects on Lakoff's ideas and career in an effort to clarify his contemporary influence. The author focuses mainly on Lakoff's 2008 "The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain." (Contains 5 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Information Analyses; Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education; Two Year Colleges
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A