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1 Burnside American Studies- Culture Wars

This title in other editions

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

by

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

 

 

Reading Group Guide

1. How did you define freedom before reading Whose Freedom? Did you consider your definition to be progressive? Were you surprised to discover that the progressive definition is also the more traditional one, as George Lakoff maintains in the books opening pages?

2. What “frames” or cultural influences have shaped your political opinions throughout your life? In an enlightened society marked by considerable scientific discovery, why do frames still trump facts in shaping opinions?

3. In what way can the contested nature of language be an advantage for progressives?

4. Using Chapter 2 as a reference point, identify the folk theories that prevail in your community. Which folk theories have been the most difficult for you to reject?

5. Applying the authors logic of simple freedom, which cornerstones of freedom seem to be most in jeopardy today? How would you counter an argument that said equality and fairness are not inextricably linked to the definition of freedom?

6. Which aspects of freedom are currently not being contested in America?

7. Lakoff argues that the nation is understood metaphorically as a family, and that there are two very different models of parenting that reflect two opposing worldviews. Which model shapes your political views? Why has the authoritarian, paternalistic strict father model been allowed to flourish in so many cultures throughout history?

8. Which of the subgroups described in Chapters 5 and 6 (socioeconomic progressives, identity-politics progressives, environmental progressives, civil liberties progressives, spiritual progressives, antiauthoritarian progressives, idealists, pragmatists, militants, financial conservatives, libertarians, social conservatives, fundamentalists, and neoconservatives) do you predict will prevail in future American political structures?

9. In Chapter 7, “Causation and Freedom,” Lakoff begins with the observation that “the progressives argue on the basis of systemic causation (within a social, ecological, or economic system) and the conservatives argue on the basis of direct causation (by a single individual).” He goes on to explain the ways in which our understanding of causation can have profound effects on public policy. In what way does it empower us to be aware of the two models of causation?

10. How should “free” be defined in the notion of free markets? Do free markets undermine democratic freedom? Were the premises of the economic liberty myth, outlined in Chapter 9, readily believed by the American public?

11. In your opinion, is it right that American corporations in many ways act like governments, as discussed in Chapter 9? Should corporations be entitled to the same freedoms and liberties as an individual citizen?

12. How has religious rhetoric shaped American perceptions of freedom in recent years? How does the rhetoric of progressive Christianity differ from that of fundamentalist Christianity? What would the American political landscape look like without the influence of religion?

13. Based on what you read in Chapter 11, what seems to be the ultimate goal of George W. Bushs foreign policy? How did framing help him persuade Congress (and a substantial number of voters) to back many of these policies? Who has been liberated by his initiatives? Have Bushs policies been effective at spreading freedom abroad? What kind of freedom?

14. What fallacies can you identify in the radical conservative definition of freedom and liberty? To whom are those arguments appealing? How are these groups able to downplay FDRs goals of freedom from want and fear?

15. What would it take to enact the calls to action that form the closing paragraphs of Chapter 11?

16. How was 9/11 framed in terms of freedom? What were the consequences, in domestic and foreign policy, of this framing?

17. Is it possible to create a truly inclusive freedom—one in which the answer to “Whose freedom?” is “Everyones”?

18. What does the authors closing anecdote (regarding the use of MRIs in examining partisan thinking) say about the future of political rhetoric? Where does the greatest hope for reframing freedom lie? In the media? Universities? Popular culture?

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312426477
Author:
Lakoff, George
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
Political Freedom & Security - Civil Rights
Subject:
Political Freedom & Security - General
Subject:
General Political Science
Subject:
Government - U.S. Government
Subject:
Political Ideologies - Conservatism & Liberalism
Subject:
Politics - General
Subject:
Political Parties
Subject:
Political Ideologies - General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20070531
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
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 Trade Paper
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Product details 288 pages Picador USA - English 9780312426477 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 , "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."
"Review" by , "One of the most influential political thinkers of the progressive movement."
"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.

"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.

George Lakoff is the author of Don't Think of an Elephant and Moral Politics, as well as many seminal books on linguistics. He lives and teaches in Berkeley, California.
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 and taxes for the wealthy cut in order to enhance individual freedoms. Intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in the name of freedom of speech. 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.
 
"Freedom" is one of the most contested words in American political discourse. 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, a linguist and cognitive scientist, reveals that in fact the right has effected a devastatingly coherent and ideological redefinition of freedom. Disregarding the progressive ideal of freedom taken for granted throughout our history, the conservative revolution has made "freedom" its central weapon on the front lines of everything from the war on terror to the battles over religion in the classroom and abortion.
 
In his analysis, Lakoff describes how the country is divided by two dramatically different worldviews, cognitive frames that determine how we think about economic policy, religion, science, foreign affairs—and freedom. He reveals the mechanisms behind the right-wing hijacking of our most cherished political idea. And he shows how progressives not only have failed at every turn to counter this attack, but also have failed to recognize its nature and, even worse, have failed to articulate their own intuitive understanding of freedom. Whose Freedom? argues what progressives must do to take back ground in this high-stakes war over the most central idea in American life.
"For Lakoff, [George W.] Bush's idea of freedom is deeply problematic—antithetical, in fact, to the 'progressive freedom' that Lakoff argues has defined America and made it great. This progressive definition of freedom—the more or less continuous expansion of rights, opportunity and citizen enfranchisement—stood unchallenged for many years. But now, that freedom is 'up for grabs,' and Lakoff is worried: 'To lose freedom is a terrible thing; to lose the idea of freedom is even worse' . . . In a series of chapters on economics, religion, foreign policy and personal freedom, Lakoff compares the implications of the liberal and conservative definitions of freedom . . . Lakoff is right to identify freedom as a concept that liberals need to think about more."— Michael Tomasky, The Washington Post Book World
"For Lakoff, [George W.] Bush's idea of freedom is deeply problematic—antithetical, in fact, to the 'progressive freedom' that Lakoff argues has defined America and made it great. This progressive definition of freedom—the more or less continuous expansion of rights, opportunity and citizen enfranchisement—stood unchallenged for many years. But now, that freedom is 'up for grabs,' and Lakoff is worried: 'To lose freedom is a terrible thing; to lose the idea of freedom is even worse' . . . In a series of chapters on economics, religion, foreign policy and personal freedom, Lakoff compares the implications of the liberal and conservative definitions of freedom . . . Lakoff is right to identify freedom as a concept that liberals need to think about more. It's to liberals' shame that the words 'freedom' and 'liberty' are more closely associated with today's American right than with today's American left, so I admired the polemical intent of Whose Freedom?"—Michael Tomasky, The Washington Post Book World
 
"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
 
"This brief, well written, and easy-to-follow volume is essentially aimed at how progressives should handle conservatives' thought processes in debates over the issues."—Jim Sullivan, The Midwest Book Review
 
"George Lakoff has made pathbreaking contributions to cognitive science. In Whose Freedom? he uses several of his discoveries and much wisdom to produce a systematic analysis of contemporary society and political thinking. The result is illuminating."—Antonio Damasio, author of Descartes' Error, The Feeling of What Happens, and Looking for Spinoza
 
"In the battle of ideas, George Lakoff is one of the progressive movement's Five-Star Generals. Here he shows what we must do to take back precious ground lost to the Right—the concept of 'freedom,' on which America's very foundation is built. Read this and arm yourself."—Robert B. Reich, Professor of Public Policy at University California at Berkeley and former U.S. Secretary of Labor
 
"Few words evoke more emotion or debate in this country than the word 'freedom.' Our founding fathers intended for it to be that way. And ever since, progressive political leaders have attempted to interpret and employ the concept of freedom and its relevance to American public policy debates. Arguably, President Franklin Roosevelt described it most eloquently and succinctly in his 'Four Freedoms' of speech and worship and from want and fear. George Lakoff's new book is as enjoyable to read as it is important to understand. It comes at a critical time for our country. 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."—Tom Daschle, former Senate Majority Leader 
 
"One of the most influential political thinkers of the progressive movement."—Howard Dean
 
"Lakoff revisits the theme of his 2004 bestseller Don't Think of an Elephant!, exploring the role of rhetorical metaphors in shaping political discourse. Specifically, he explores how the conservative and progressive definitions of 'freedom' differ from one another, in order to demonstrate how liberals uphold a dominant American political tradition while 'radical conservatives' seek to overturn that legacy for their own selfish ends."—Publishers Weekly
 
"Democratic Party adviser Lakoff argues that the Republican Party is redefining freedom as a weapon to push its own agenda."—Library Journal

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