Monday, March 14, 2005

Critique of Lakoff from the Left

I don't agree with a lot of what Cooper, an editor at the Nation (i.e., not a rightwinger) writes -- I actually do think 2004 was stolen, e.g. -- but I do agree with much of his critique of what I understand of Lakoff from posts here (still haven't read it). If Cooper is accurately portraying Lakoff's psychodynamic and pseudo-biological basis for "framing," I have to say that that is total bullshit -- or at least oversimplified "scientism." Which is not to say that Lakoff's normative suggestions are thus exploded, of course!

I also agree with his worries about e-based echo chambers...such as this one...? :) I think he definitely underestimates their usefulness in social cohesion, but we must act on the ground, too. As we all know on this blog, and as we all did!

Finally, it's just good to have a counterargument like this, from someone on the side of the "good and true." That's what true debate is all about. And it'll get some discussion going! For sure! :)

PS: Yes, I realize that Mr. Cooper may be trying make a career move from the Nation to the Atlantic Monthly, which exasperatingly mixes brilliant work with rightwing garbage. Doesn't obviate the need to respond to his blistering critique, titled: Thinking of Jackasses: The grand delusions of the Democratic Party, by Marc Cooper.

4 Thoughts:

Blogger Demotiki said...


I haven't read the peice you reference, but I can tell you that Lakoff doesn't use gender stereotypes. He speaks of two "frames" or worldviews that dominate political discourse in the US. He claims that the Republican philosophical viewpoint is best summed up as a "strict parent" model and the Democrat "frame" as the "nurturant parent"

There is no biological arguement involved. These are two of the ways in which we all look at society. Each of us uses both "frames" in diferent areas of our lives. More than anything else, this book explains how to win over people by talking their language and making them understand yours.

The book is 120 pages and you could read it about two hours. Take the time.


Wednesday, March 16, 2005 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...


Just kidding: I'll read _Moral Politics_ and you read this article. Then we'll discuss it, probably in Boston!

Thursday, March 17, 2005 1:12:00 PM  
Blogger baslow said...

Lakoff has been writing about Cognitive Linguistics since at least 1987 (when his landmark book on categorization, "Women, Fire and Dangerous Things" was published). Although his particular take on "frames" may be unique the general ideas have been discussed at great length for many, many years (Roger Schank's "scripts", Charles Fillmore's "frame semantics", even Erving Goffman's "Frame Analysis", and more). Lakoff has published an excellent book (with Mark Johnson) entitled "Metaphors We Live By", which demonstrates that the ideas he applies in "Moral Politics" are NOT confined to politics. In "Philosophy In the Flesh" (also written with Johnson) he discusses the frames underlying Western philosophy. In "Where Does Mathematics Come From" (written with Rafael Nunez) he discusses how mathematics derives from our sense of our bodies. In "More Than Cool Reason" (written with Mark Turner) he discusses the effectivenes of metaphors in poetry. He has actually worked with neuroscientists (the name Narayan comes to mind but I could be wrong about that).

So...the concept of
"frames" goes way beyond its application to politics and, in fact was not devised particularly for political analysis.

I have my questions about some of Lakoff's notions of how frames function in political discourse but the work is due a great deal more respect than Marc Cooper (dismissing it as "personal therapy", "psychobabble", and "neuroscientific hooey") gives it. It is due, in fact, some intellectual engagement, some attempt at understanding Lakoff's arguments and pointing out their limitations or their errors. Marc Cooper offers none of that. He offers name-calling. He offers a screed.

This is not enlightening. It is not helpful. It isn't even correct.

Friday, March 18, 2005 3:39:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Hi, Baslow! Thanks for the background...Goffman, I have a lot of respect for...and I've yet to read _Moral Politics_, so I'll see what I think from the source.

"Frames" sound awfully close to Foucault's "epistemes" or Kuhn's "paradigms," or even Ludwig Fleck's "thought collectives." I think that the social nature of cognition is completely established (at least for me); I have no beef with that. What I'm more concerned about is not getting caught up in language games when we should be on the ground mobilizing. At this point, my friends pawlr and demotiki will be screaming, "You can't mobilize if no one understands you, framewise." I agree; I'm mostly concerned to avoid upper-middle-class liberal navel-gazing while theofascists take over. Whether I can link that fear to Lakoff or not (or whether anyone else can) is debatable, but I will read the actual work itself to see for myself. Thanks for the post! Keep 'em coming!

Saturday, March 19, 2005 8:06:00 AM  

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