I finished George Lakoffâ€™s Moral Politics a few days ago – and wrote this little review but forgot to put it up. Itâ€™s another book that I have mixed feelings on.
Lakoff, along with Mark Johnson, is the forerunner of conceptual metaphor theory, which I happen to like. This book repsresents a full-scale application of that theory to politics and morality via opposing â€˜Strict Fatherâ€™ and â€˜Nuturant Parentâ€™ models. Overall I have to say heâ€™s on the right track, although I would question the delivery of the concepts as well as express some reservation over his attempt at liberal policy-making near the end.
Of the first of those two observations, the book really suffers from length. It takes way too long to develop what is in the end a relatively simple to understand opposition of two metaphor families. The text could be half its length and hit much, much harder as a result.
In the resulting saved space, I would have liked to have seen more discussion of how the Strict Father/Nuturant Parent models can co-exist, for certainly they do. Iâ€™m sure there are perfect rank-and-file Americans out there who will snap to attention with the correct stimuli, hugging their respective trees or leaving babies to cry alone & thereby toughen up, but most of us are more complex. And I would especially like to see more discussion of how the liberal-minded might turn the Strict Father set of metaphors to their advantage. Recognizing and understanding them is one thing; using them with the same deftness is another.
As to the inclusion of the authorâ€™s own politics, I was ok with it, but I felt that such opinion should be in a separate work. If youâ€™re going to lean on the trappings of scholarship, citations and whatnot, I believe a certain neutrality has to be observed – for the duration. Lakoff maintains this neutrality scrupulously for most of the book and then abandons it in the end. The tiny, pitchfork-wielding conservative that usually dozes on my shoulder leapt up and cried, â€œAha! His true agenda is revealed!â€ Politics and academia for me are like church and state; theyâ€™re both valuable but you should only wear one hat at a time.