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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2008
George Lakoff is a big hitter in the world of linguistics and cognitive science and has been for somne years. Latterly he has tried to apply his academic knowledge to political discourse.

This short book was as I understand it produced in the wake of Bush's re-election as a guide for Democrats and other progressives on how to talk politics, and was quite a big thing in US politico circles when released. It is based around the interesting idea that the split in American politics is fundamentally a different conceptual understanding of America as a family. Republicans and the Right subscribe to what Lakoff describes as a 'strict father' model, whereas Democrats and progressives believe in a 'nurturant parent' model.

Lakoff argues that we principally think in terms of frames, and that different political visions also seek to present ideas within different frames. So, in his big example, Republicans talk about 'tax relief' rather than 'tax cuts', because the former suggests that tax is an affliction, that whoever brings relief is a hero, and whoever tries to stop the hero is a villain. Lakoff argues that there is no point fighting your opponent on their own ground. Once a frame - like tax relief - is in place it is effectively part of the wiring of the brain, and very hard to shift. We will ignore or seek to undermine information that doesn't fit the frame (known as confirmation bias in other areas). Therefore what you have to do instead is establish alternative frames that get across your view of the world.

It's an interesting idea, and personally I think there is some merit in the central ideas. However when it comes to applying these insights in practice the advice seems a bit more speculative. Lakoff is obviously a smart guy, so I am torn between thinking he has just left out all the reasoning behind his suggestions in order to produce a short guide for campaigners, and thinking perhaps a bit more theorising needs to be done. For example, the section at the end on how to debate with Conservatives, whilst a useful list of pointers on how to conduct yourself could have been written by anyone. Maybe people need to hear such guidance from an experts in order to accept it?

A couple of final points. First, I went for the version of the book that come swith a free DVD. This is worth a look (it is only 25 mins long) because, to my knowledge, you just don't get this kind of thing in the UK. Also it does serve to remind you of that old line about being divided by a common language - the presentation is very cheesy by British standards. Secondly, if you find Lakoff's ideas interesting I would strongly recommend Metaphors We Live By. This is a non-political book, but a really fascinating look at how we use metaphors to understand. If he could apply that level of insight to politics he really would be onto something.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 30 March 2010
Lots of useful information, concisely written and very good value. I would recommend this book irrespective of your political colour as the ideas presented are valid for all parties, and indeed are useful in debates on any subject. The information is of particular relevance to minority groups who have to battle against stereotypes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 31 January 2013
This is a fascinating primer on how to conduct political debate. Lakoff advises us to know our values and know our facts.
For example, he points out that taxes are wise investments for the future - schools, colleges, hospitals. It follows that privatisations - foundation hospitals and academies - are thefts. Tax is paying your dues, your patriotic membership fees. When the ruling class opposes taxes, it is actually opposing investment.
Through budget cuts, the government privatises the soft left, who become a type of charity, spending their own money on what the government should be doing.
Lakoff advises us on the proper standards of behaviour to use in debate: don't shout, don't abuse, don't complain, don't whine, don't plead, don't act like a victim. Don't be, or sound, angry or weak, unpatriotic or elitist. He urges, "Hold your ground. Always be on the offense. Never go on defense."
Inconsistencies are revealing. For example, when the British government backs Al-Qaeda in one place (Syria) and opposes it in another (Mali), this proves that the real agenda is not Al-Qaeda or terrorism at all, but about something else, usually control of resources, particularly oil.
He suggests that we visit the website [...] for more examples of framing debates.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 December 2012
I am particularly interested in E. Goffman (and others) who have formalised and named Frame Analysis within social interaction. Despite the title, this short book examines the Conservative political scene within America, but much of its message can be thought provoking for the individual where ever and in whatever situation they find themselves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
It's a pity this book focuses so much on US politics and politicians because there is a better book, for a wider readership, lurking within these pages. I'm interesting in US politics so thoroughly enjoyed this and have been made aware of a number of linguistic issues. Some of the analysis is quite cynical, but it is about politics ...
Short and easy to read with clear summaries of the main points. It's easy to see why this has been such a huge seller. Everyone should read it, especially if they don't have a clear idea of what a spin doctor does.
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on 7 August 2013
This is a great book and should be read by everybody!!!! I can highly recommend it. Georg Lakoff is a genius and has not only found the cause of today's main problems, but also the solutions to them. It is amazing what one can do with the use of languages.
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on 19 March 2014
Smart book, easy to digest, with profound lessons for anyone interested in progressive politics. Will be looking at Lakoff's Moral Politics next.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2014
Oh dear... what a disastrous scrawl this tome turns out to be!

The fundamental premise - conservatives speak from an authentic moral position and therefore the left (or whatever you want to call the opposing side) is eternally framed by these 'authentic' terms of debate - is so wrong the only surprise is this book doesn't automatically catch fire in your hands!

There is, of course, nothing authentic about the conservative moral position. Instead of authentic Lakoff should have gone with historical or traditional or organisational convention or whatever descriptive appeals to him. This moral position at the centre of his argument is nothing new or intrinsic or historically absent challenge. It is in no way authentic - it is merely the manifestation of the historical collusion of church, state, business etc. It is a marketing ploy - authentic is the brand conservatives apply to their moral position... nothing more.

A lazy, lazy critique.
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2 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 13 November 2009
I waited only 6 days to receive the book - and I live in Denmark. Great deal:)
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0 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 28 June 2011
there is basically ONE point in this entire book:

- how you talk about a thing influences how that thing is thought about

according to author, at the heart of american politics is the struggle between the severe father (republican) and the loving mother (democrat). the republicans have been framing the debate these last years and democrats have been merely responding.

according to author, democrats should seek to re-conquer the agenda (duh!) by defining themselves as progressives (self-righteousness - yuck!) and by committing to pooling $100 million a year into some government programme he wants. as to how this government programme is supposed to avoid the usual inefficiency of government programmes, is NOT adressed
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