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The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brainby George Lakoff
Synopses & Reviews
In What's the Matter with Kansas?, Thomas Frank pointed out that a great number of Americans actually vote against their own interests. In The Political Mind, George Lakoff explains why.
As it turns out, human beings are not the rational creatures weave so long imagined ourselves to be. Ideas, morals, and values do not exist somewhere outside the body, ready to be examined and put to use. Instead, they exist quite literally inside the brainaand they take physical shape there. For example, we form particular kinds of narratives in our minds just like we form specific muscle memories such as typing or dancing, and then we fit new information into those narratives. Getting that information out of one narrative type and into anotheraor building a whole new narrative altogetheracan be as hard as learning to play the banjo. Changing your mind isnat like changing your bodyaitas the same thing.
But as long as progressive politicians and activists persist in believing that people use an objective system of reasoning to decide on their politics, the Democrats will continue to lose elections. They must wrest control of the terms of the debate from their opponents rather than accepting their frame and trying to argue within it.
This passionate, erudite, and groundbreaking book will appeal to readers of Steven Pinker and Thomas Frank. It is a fascinating read for anyone interested in how the mind works, how society works, and how they work together.
"Lakoff (Don't Think of an Elephant) harnesses cognitive science to rally progressive politicians and voters by positing that conservatives have framed the debate on vital issues more effectively than liberals. According to his research, conservatives comprehend that most brain functioning is grounded not in logical reasoning but in emotionalism — as a result, huge portions of the citizenry accept the Republican framing of the 'war in Iraq' and 'supporting the troops' rather than liberal appeals and phrasing of 'the occupation in Iraq' and 'squandering tax money.' George W. Bush won the presidency by concocting a 'redemption narrative,' persuading tens of millions of voters that his past moral and business shortcomings should be viewed as a prelude to pulling himself up, rather than as disqualifying behavior. While sections of the book employ technical scientific terminology, the author masterfully makes his research comprehensible to nonspecialists. His conclusion — that if citizens and policy-makers better understand brain functioning, hope exists to ameliorate global warming and other societal disasters in the making — will be of vital importance and interest to all readers. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Smart and provocative-essential reading for political activists and policy wonks of any stripe." Kirkus Reviews
The New York Times-bestselling author of Don't Think of an Elephant! explains the science behind how we make political decisions.
A groundbreaking scientific examination of the way our brains understand politics from a New York Times bestselling author
One of the world 's best-known linguists and cognitive scientists, George Lakoff has a knack for making science make sense for general readers. In his new book, Lakoff spells out what cognitive science has discovered about reason, and reveals that human reason is far more interesting than we thought it was. Reason is physical, mostly unconscious, metaphorical, emotion-laden, and tied to empathy-and there are biological explanations behind our moral and political thought processes. His call for a New Enlightenment is a bold and striking challenge to the cherished beliefs not only of philosophers, but of pundits, pollsters, and political leaders. The Political Mind is a passionate, erudite, and groundbreaking book that will appeal to anyone interested in how the mind works and how we function socially and politically.
About the Author
George Lakoff is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Rockridge Institute, a think tank in Berkeley. He is author of Don't Think of an Elephant!, Moral Politics, Whose Freedom?, and coauthor of Thinking Points: A Progressive's Handbook, as well as many books and articles on cognitive science and linguistics.
Table of Contents
The Political Mind
Introduction: Brain Change and Social Change
Part I: How the Brain Shapes the Political Mind
Chapter 1: Anna Nicole on the Brain
Chapter 2: The Political Unconscious
Chapter 3: The Brain's Role in Family Values
Chapter 4: The Brain's Role in Political Ideologies
Part II: Political Challenges for the Twenty-first-Century Mind
Chapter 5: A New Consciousness
Chapter 6: Traumatic Ideas: The War on Terror
Chapter 7: Framing Reality: Privateering
Chapter 8: Fear of Framing
Chapter 9: Confronting Stereotypes: Sons of the Welfare Queen
Chapter 10: Aim Above the Bad Apples
Chapter 11: Cognitive Policy
Chapter 12: Contested Concepts Everywhere
Part III: The Technical Is the Political
Chapter 13: Exploring the Political Brain
Chapter 14: The Problem of Self-interest
Chapter 15: The Metaphors Defining Rational Action
Chapter 16: Why Hawks Win
Chapter 17: The Brain's Language
Chapter 18: Language in the New Enlightenment
Afterword: What If It Works?
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