The Political Mind

The Political Mind

Why You Can't Understand 21st-century Politics With An 18th-century Brain

Book - 2008
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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.
Publisher: New York : Viking, 2008.
ISBN: 9780670019274
Branch Call Number: 320.01 L192
Characteristics: x, 292 p. ; 24 cm.


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Sep 24, 2016

There is some value in this book, notably in its account of the work of Daniel Kahneman, which won him the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics. However the book falls far short of its promise to link research about how the brain works to political thought. Instead it is a crude, over-the-top smear of Republicans by a liberal Democratic shill. While Lakoff criticizes the privatization of the US military under George Bush, citing the activities of Blackwater in Iraq, he completely ignores the Washington Agreement of March 1994, under which Bill Clinton agreed to use the Virginia-based firm Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) to train the Croatian armed forces. It was these forces that would shortly after launch Operation Storm, the most devastating act of ethnic cleansing in the wars that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia, where up to twelve hundred Serb civilians in the Krajina were killed, and 150 to 200 thousand, virtually the entire Serb population were expelled. Clinton was a Democrat so if he used military contractors to organize a massive ethnic cleansing operation, that was OK as far as Lakoff is concerned.
Ronald Reagan is repeatedly and unfairly smeared in the book. He supposedly lied in his 1976 campaign about a “Welfare Queen” who never existed. Reagan was speaking about Linda Taylor, who was convicted of illegally obtaining 23 welfare checks using two aliases. It was probably George Bliss of the Chicago Tribune, and certainly not Reagan, who first called Taylor the Welfare Queen. Reagan is also blamed for popularizing the term “entitlements” instead of speaking about “spending programs”. However, “ an entitlement is a government program guaranteeing access to some benefit by members of a specific group and based on established rights or by legislation.” It is not just any spending program. Here, and elsewhere, Lakoff’s 2008 book has dated very badly, as it has become more and more obvious that entitlements threaten the fiscal viability of American governments from the municipal to the state to the federal level.
On p.202 we are told, contrary to fact, that Englishman Charles Darwin grew up in Scotland, an adherent to the Church of Scotland, presumably to establish a firmer link between social Darwinism and Calvinism. How did this book get published as it is? Are there no copy editors at Viking Press?

Mar 30, 2015

Not a bad book, but it helps to have already read his other books, especially Philosophy in the Flesh, as this book tends to summarize the analysis and conclusions of the earlier one. Most interesting is the last chapter 18: Language in the New Enlightenment, as it gives historical background.

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