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Whose Freedom?: The Battle over America's Most Important Idea

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Whose Freedom?: The Battle over America's Most Important Idea Cover

ISBN13: 9780374158286
ISBN10: 0374158282
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Review-A-Day

"There is much to admire in Lakoff's work in linguistics, but Whose Freedom?, and more generally his thinking about politics, is a train wreck. Though it contains messianic claims about everything from epistemology to political tactics, the book has no footnotes or references (just a generic reading list), and cites no studies from political science or economics, and barely mentions linguistics....And Lakoff's cartoonish depiction of progressives as saintly sophisticates and conservatives as evil morons fails on both intellectual and tactical grounds." Steven Pinker, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)

(Read George Lakoff's reponse to Steven Pinker's review, reprinted here with the kind permission of the New Republic Online)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Since September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has relentlessly invoked the word freedom. The United States can strike preemptively because freedom is on the march. Social security should be privatized in order to protect individual freedoms. In the 2005 presidential inaugural speech, the words freedom, free, and liberty were used forty-nine times. Freedom is one of the most contested words in American political discourse, the keystone to the domestic and foreign policy battles that are racking this polarized nation. For many Democrats, it seems that President Bush's use of the word is meaningless and contradictory — deployed opportunistically to justify American military action abroad and the curtailing of civil liberties at home. But in Whose Freedom?, George Lakoff, an adviser to the Democratic party, shows that in fact the right has effected a devastatingly coherent and ideological redefinition of freedom. The conservative revolution has remade freedom in its own image and deployed it as a central weapon on the front lines of everything from the war on terror to the battles over religion in the classroom and abortion. In a deep and alarming analysis, Lakoff explains the mechanisms behind this hijacking of our most cherished political idea — and shows how progressives have not only failed to counter the right-wing attack on freedom but have failed to recognize its nature. Whose Freedom? argues forcefully what progressives must do to take back ground in this high-stakes war over the most central idea in American life.

Review:

"If I had to guess at the virtues that future historians may attribute to George W. Bush, I think they'll say something like, 'He tried to advance freedom.' Even the president's critics (like, say, me) will admit that Bush has placed the concept of worldwide freedom before the people regularly and emphatically.

George Lakoff, unquestionably a presidential critic, would grant Bush that much.... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"The strength of Whose Freedom? is that it attributes the left's current foundering not just to a failure of strategy but to a failure of self-knowledge...this makes a lot of sense, and it's easy to start imagining ways that pressing issues could be recast according to Lakoff's formula." Laura Miller, Salon.com

Review:

"One of the most influential political thinkers of the progressive movement." Howard Dean

Review:

"Because freedom has always been a progressive concept, it is time for progressives to reclaim the word and its meaning in today's context. Mr. Lakoff shows us how." Former Senator Tom Daschle

Book News Annotation:

After Lakoff (founding senior fellow, Rockridge Institute--"a center for research devoted to promoting progressive ideas") published his Don't Think of an Elephant!, his ideas on the relationship between politics and the power of language to frame debates became quite popular in some liberal circles, particularly on the Internet. Here he applies the same approach to the use of the term freedom in American politics. He argues that "radical conservatives" are not being hypocritical when they use the word freedom, as many progressives believe, but instead are articulating an idea that frames their entire worldview and helps to motivate their base. Progressives, says Lakoff, need to recognize this and construct their own frame regarding the concept of freedom. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

Since September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has relentlessly invoked the word "freedom." Al-Qaeda attacked us because "they hate our freedom." The U.S. can strike preemptively because "freedom is on the march." Social security should be privatized in order to protect individual freedoms. The 2005 presidential inaugural speech was a kind of crescendo: the words "freedom," "free," and "liberty," were used forty-nine times in President Bush's twenty-minute speech.

 

In Whose Freedom?, Lakoff surveys the political landscape and offers an essential map of the Republican battle plan that has captured the hearts and minds of Americans--and shows how progressives can fight to reinvigorate this most beloved of American political ideas.

About the Author

George Lakoff, recently featured in The New York Times Magazine, is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a founding senior fellow of the Rockridge Institute, a center for research devoted to promoting progressive ideas. He is the author of the influential Don’t Think of an Elephant! and Moral Politics, as well as seminal books on linguistics, including Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things and Metaphors We Live By (with Mark Johnson). He lives in Berkeley, California.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 8 comments:

mikemykel, October 20, 2006 (view all comments by mikemykel)
If I were to be sentenced to life in solitary confinement
Philosophy in the Flesh would be the book I would most like to take with me. I have been carrying it around and rereading it for several years. The last book of Pinker's I read was Blank Slate and in fact it will probably be the last book of Pinker's that I read. I haven't read Whose Freedom yet but I am saving my nickles and dimes.
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(16 of 34 readers found this comment helpful)
judgeschreber, October 20, 2006 (view all comments by judgeschreber)
I think this debate is incredibly petty and embarrassing--it really shows academics at their worst. Lakoff, in my opinion, should never have tried to move into writing about politics, since, as Pinker rightly points out, any former intellectual rigor he observed previously is thrown out the window in order to make ideological points about a field he is no expert in. In this respect he could have taken a lesson from Chomsky--these are two different worlds with different standards of what passes for rigor, and if you're going to step into this other world, make sure you engage with it on its own terms with plenty of concrete examples and an abundance of footnotes. On the other hand, as Lakoff points out, Pinker's attack results from a poor, caricatured understanding of Lakoff's cognitive linguistics.

I much admire Lakoff's early work that effectively demonstrates the mistake in thinking (ala Chomsky) that syntax is independent of semantics (even staunch supporters of Chomsky such as Ray Jackendoff have come around to the position that meaning does in fact matter for language). I like Lakoff's work on metaphor, but my support has somewhat softened, and I now feel, with Pinker, that although metaphor is important, Lakoff does take it a bit overboard.

On the other hand, I find Pinker's evolutionary psychology utterly irresponsible. I agree with Lakoff that it is in many ways a throwback to social darwinism. It is meant to "shock" by confronting many admittedly irrational positions deriving from the attractive power of "the blank slate," yet it refutes these positions by making equally irrational appeals to the attractive power of darwinism.

Not that evolutionary theory and linguistics/psychology cannot mix well, when applied responsibly and rigorously. Many people are doing great things with an evolutionary approach to mind, including some of my personal favorites: philosopher Daniel Dennett at Tufts; the AI people at MIT who were influenced by Marvin MInsky's "Society of Mind" (in case you've seen it, one of those MIT guys is profiled in Errol Morris' film "Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control," and he provides a good, rough account of this evolutionary model of cognition); and my new favorite thinker about linguistics and cognition, Michael Tomasello, a researcher on chimpanzee and human infant intelligence who, in his book "The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition," has a very intriguing argument about the attribution of intention to other beings as a crucial step in the evolution of the human mind.

Anyways, that's my take on the whole thing.
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(44 of 57 readers found this comment helpful)
MuddyMo, October 19, 2006 (view all comments by MuddyMo)
I am commenting on TrollHaven's comments on Pinker's attack on Lakoff.

TrollHaven wrote: "Republicans really do stand for something--something despicable, but they do stand for it"

That's one for the ages.

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(11 of 34 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780374158286
Subtitle:
The Battle over America's Most Important Idea
Author:
Lakoff, George
Publisher:
Picador
Subject:
General
Subject:
Conservatism
Subject:
Liberty
Subject:
Political Freedom & Security - General
Subject:
General Political Science
Subject:
Government - U.S. Government
Subject:
Political Ideologies - Conservatism & Liberalism
Subject:
Political Parties
Subject:
Political Ideologies - General
Copyright:
Publication Date:
June 2006
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Language:
English
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
8.5 x 5.5 x 0.648 in

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Related Subjects

» History and Social Science » American Studies » Culture Wars
» History and Social Science » Politics » General
» History and Social Science » Politics » United States » Culture

Whose Freedom?: The Battle over America's Most Important Idea Used Hardcover
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$11.50 In Stock
Product details 288 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374158286 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "There is much to admire in Lakoff's work in linguistics, but Whose Freedom?, and more generally his thinking about politics, is a train wreck. Though it contains messianic claims about everything from epistemology to political tactics, the book has no footnotes or references (just a generic reading list), and cites no studies from political science or economics, and barely mentions linguistics....And Lakoff's cartoonish depiction of progressives as saintly sophisticates and conservatives as evil morons fails on both intellectual and tactical grounds." Steven Pinker, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)

(Read George Lakoff's reponse to Steven Pinker's review, reprinted here with the kind permission of the New Republic Online)

"Review" by , "The strength of Whose Freedom? is that it attributes the left's current foundering not just to a failure of strategy but to a failure of self-knowledge...this makes a lot of sense, and it's easy to start imagining ways that pressing issues could be recast according to Lakoff's formula."
"Review" by , "One of the most influential political thinkers of the progressive movement."
"Review" by , "Because freedom has always been a progressive concept, it is time for progressives to reclaim the word and its meaning in today's context. Mr. Lakoff shows us how."
"Synopsis" by ,
Since September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has relentlessly invoked the word "freedom." Al-Qaeda attacked us because "they hate our freedom." The U.S. can strike preemptively because "freedom is on the march." Social security should be privatized in order to protect individual freedoms. The 2005 presidential inaugural speech was a kind of crescendo: the words "freedom," "free," and "liberty," were used forty-nine times in President Bush's twenty-minute speech.

 

In Whose Freedom?, Lakoff surveys the political landscape and offers an essential map of the Republican battle plan that has captured the hearts and minds of Americans--and shows how progressives can fight to reinvigorate this most beloved of American political ideas.

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