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Reviewing George Lakoff's Moral Politics: How Liberals And Conservatives Think

In Moral Politics, a captivating thesis of a cognitive science model of the conservative and liberal mind is presented by George Lakoff. Its message is considered visionary. The aim of the model is to help understand how respective individuals push their agendas by seeing the conservatives' and liberals' worlds.

Lakoff sets out to determine where the difference lies in the two moral visions. Where, conservatives like to talk about discipline and robustness, while liberals like to talk about need and help, driven by curiosity about how liberals and conservatives can seem to be discussing about the same things and yet reach opposite conclusions.

He discovers it in models of the family and of family-based values. The family was considered primary because Americans are quite familiar to the model and they comprehend family as their country. While the individuals are perceived as children, the government is understood as parent.

Where liberals envisage the family as a 'Nurturant Parent', conservatives support the 'Strict Father' model. The difference lies in the logic so disparate that liberals and conservatives cannot even imagine to understand their opponent's views on issues like welfare, abortion, capital punishment and gay rights. That much is, on the surface, quite evident.

Mr. Lakoff's view of Strict Father Model (SFM) tends toward caricature. Liberal's subscribe to a model of family life centered on the 'Nurturant Parent', where stress is positioned on the importance of empathy and nurturance. On the contrary, The Strict father model calls attention to crucial qualities of self-discipline, self-reliance, and respect for legitimate authority.

SFM is casted to focus more on "upholding itself" and maintaining moral order, than real questions of judging right and wrong. Furthermore, after having defined SFM, the focus is conveniently shifted from "strict father" to "abusive father" declaration in several places in the text. This idea conflicts with the evidence that highlights women´┐Żas the primary perpetrators of child abuse and equal abusers of spouses (on par with men).

Foundation for a moral system is the point of difference between the conservative and liberal mindset, which informs their childrearing philosophies, which in turn determines one's view on economic, social or political issue. Where, Strict Father looks to be dark and pessimistic because of the lack of association of positives, the nurturing family model appears more optimistic and vibrant.

In the book, the bull's eye is hit by professing the view that either conservatives or liberals are in any way internally logically consistent in their philosophical views. Ironic to this, it is argued in the book that both conservatives and liberals are equally logically inconsistent in their moral philosophies. Lakoff suggests that conservatives have a deeper approach into their worldview than liberals have into theirs. Conservatives constantly talk about hearth and home morality whereas liberals shy away from the discussion on family values. Conservatives are relatively aware of how the politics relates to their views of family life and morality whereas liberals are less aware of the implicit view of morality and the family that organizes their own political beliefs. The liberal cause has been devastated because of lack of conscious awareness of their own political worldview.

What Is Marriage For? By E.J. Graff as opposed to Moral Politics by George Lakoff reveals that the two main moral systems and attendant ideologies are not restricted to the USA, nor to the present time. Also, it puts forth the idea that the liberal model has been, for a few centuries now, slowly replacing the conservative model around the World. Putting the two books together, one gets a bigger and a starker picture.

Lakoff seems to be supporting the liberals throughout his discourse but he is being too nice to conservatives, implying at least some strength to their belief system although it is not empirically supported. This book advances one possible view into how to relate ideas between conservatives and liberals.

The two worldviews use language differently such that the same word will have a very different meaning to a conservative and to a liberal. The last chapter described how the use of language affected some important political outcomes e.g., Clinton impeachment, Gore's loss to Bush, and the early days of the Bush administration. This ended with a warning to the liberals to take cognitive linguistic findings seriously in order to win future elections. I gleaned a much fuller realization on the fact that liberals and conservatives are poles apart on cultural questions as a result of the metaphorical moral reasoning which I learned from the book.

Overall, I would say that Mr. Lakoff's book is full of novel ways to look at what segregates us and hopefully what can unify us in comprehending what conservatives and liberals think. It's quite an interesting attempt and plenty of food for thought is provided for approaching the political question differently.

The value of this book is that it throws light by giving us a political model which helps us to understand what is our politics and someone else's. Lakoff's perspective on why liberals and conservatives see the world differently, makes the reading more interesting.

The author Disha Jain is an Independent Legal Practitioner and an Equity Derivatives Trader. She has diverse experience in publishing- she authored a Chapter on Death Penalty with Springer Nature, Singapore. Recently, she got featured in the Book, "Contemporary Issues on the Laws of Insolvency and Bankruptcy". Disha is an adept writer and a regular contributor to the Legal Fraternity through writing Book Chapters, Articles and Legal Analysis. She has been featured in Newspaper as well.

Written By: Disha Jain
Email: [email protected]

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