Study Questions for Lakoff, The Political Mind, Chapter 2

Prepared by Dr. Jan Garrett

Last modification date: August 31, 2009

1. What evidence does L give that politics is about moral values (note he did not say about correct moral values)? (43)

2. What is the cognitive unconscious? Where is "most of what we understand in public discourse"? (43) Approximately how much of our conceptual networks is conscious? (44)

3. If many Americans make use of both conservative and progressive (or liberal) modes of thought, what prevents them from constantly contradicting themselves? (44)

4. Do political moderates exist, in Lakoff's opinion? What facts do we sometimes confuse with the existence of political moderates? What common political metaphor does L call inaccurate? (In other works he refers to inapt metaphors.) (44-45)

5. What ideas are now being passed off as "mainstream" ideas? How has the L2R scale metaphor served to marginalize progressives? (45-46)

6. On p. 44 L says "America was founded…as a progressive country." What American ideals and what conceptual metaphor might make it seem to some people, who feel that what they believe are mainstream ideals, that American ideals are on the "extreme left"? (46)

7. Why does L say, after criticizing it, that the left-to-right scale metaphor is "no concocted hoax"? (47)

8. What "single moral value" lies behind every progressive policy? What two other values are closely associated with it? Why? (47)

9. Explain "the ethics of care shapes government"? (47-48) Is guaranteeing liberty compatible with the "ethics of care"? Explain. Why does L say that governmental budgets are moral documents? (48)

10. How is empathy related to unfair and discriminatory treatment? A "fair market"? (49)

11. What is "perhaps" the most important governmental protection? What arrangements and legal principles are justified in terms of empathy? (50)

12. What are some "progressive" attitudes toward the market? Toward lobbying by large corporations? Toward small business? Strong unions? (51-52)

13. What does it take to turn progressive values into what Lakoff calls neoliberal thought? (51)

Note: Lakoff's use of this term is unfortunate, since outside the U.S. the term "neoliberal" is frequently used with a different meaning: Neoliberals in this other sense advocate turning almost all government functions over to private companies.)

14. What understanding of emotion does neoliberal thought have? How does it try to achieve care for the disadvantaged? (51) How are needs demonstrated, in neoliberal thinking? To what practice does this approach lead? Why is it problematic? (52)

15. Why do conservative morals-based frames win over neoliberal statistics? (52-53)

16. What other deficiency does Lakoff find in the neoliberal approach? (53) How can progressive political advocates do better in reaching the public? Why does neoliberal focusing on interests play into the hands of conservatives? (53-54)

The "rational actor" mentioned on p. 54 is a concept borrowed from economic theories according to which persons are rational self-interest maximizers. In so-called "realist" foreign policy theory, states are considered rational actors in this sense. They are not constrained by moral norms but by calculations concerning their own national interests.
17. How does the "rational actor" model hide the needs of real people? (54)

18. How does neoliberal thinking produce "issue silos"? Why do they conceal important truths? What does neoliberal thought routinely miss? (55)

19. What assumption about "winning the day" dominates the neoliberal approach to politics? (55) How does administrative undermining render ineffective institutions created as a result of the neoliberal approach to protecting the public? (55)

20. Why does neoliberalism not think of itself as elitist? Why does it nevertheless smack of elitism? (55)

21. Why can't it recognize its own framing as framing? Why can't Old Enlightenment reason recognize conservative framing as such? (56)

22. Why does L say that neoliberals tend to surrender in advance to conservatives? (56)

23. How does the notion of optimization, which is suggested by the focus on interest, lead to disaster in the area, say, of health insurance? (56-57)

24. What point did Gore make in the passage on p. 57 cited by Lakoff? How does this description "follow from neoliberal thought based on Old Enlightenment reason"? (58)

25. What does Lakoff have in mind when describing the application of neoliberal thought to the third world as a disaster? (58)

26. Why does neoliberalism combined with the metaphor of left-to-right political options lead otherwise progressive politicians to move to the right? (58-59) Why is this counterproductive? (59)

27. Why are people who define their identity by a worldview unlikely to change? (59) What advice does L have for a neoliberal who wants to be loyal to the progressive values he once held? (59-60)

28. With what does conservative thought begin? What assumptions are associated with this proposition? How does this apply to large institutions? What maintains the hierarchy? What is freedom in this view? (60)

29. How do (recent?) conservatives see the market? How is prosperity understood? What is the general conservative interpretation of poverty? (61)

30. In what way does "neoliberalism" converge with conservativism? (61-62)

31. Why does L say Adam Smith's concept of the free market was a liberal proposal? How did Edmund Burke reframe Smith's ideas as conservative? (62)

32. What is the logic behind the conservative position that the market should be free from outside interference? Behind the conservative view that what progressives see as government protection (good) is really government interference (bad)? (63)

33. Why canít conservatives admit that deregulation or the privatization of the mission of government does not eliminate government? (63)

34. What is Lakoff's explanation for the fact that most conservatives have had no major problem with President Bush's "unitary executive" doctrine and its major applications? (64-65)

35. Why would the "President is always right" doctrine not apply to progressive presidents, in the eyes of conservatives? (65)

36. What conservative rationale explains how President Nixon could admire the way Edgar Kaiser ran his health insurance company? (66-67)

37. Why is Medicare for all considered immoral from the conservative perspective? (67)

38. Why, according to Lakoff, does framing "come before" policy? (67-68) Why does he reject the view that framing is chiefly about "selling policy"? How does an honest framing differ from a deceptive one? (68)

39. Is the current use of the term "conservative" in any way an example of deceptive framing? (68-69)

40. How did Barry Goldwater, the Republican Presidential nominee in the 1964 elections, exemplify biconceptualism? Why does Lakoff consider him a biconceptual conservative and not a biconceptual progressive? Is biconceptualism always conscious? (70)

41. What is the brain mechanism of biconceptual thought? How does this explain the existence of people with biconceptual personal views? Why do they seem to be hypocrites to some people? Why did Bill Clinton and Geo W Bush evoke charges of hypocrisy? Why don't such people consider themselves hypocrites? (70-72)

42. How is biconceptualism made possible by the way the brain works? What is characteristic of the brains of people who have no opinion on, say, the abortion issue? (72-73)

43. How does L illustrate the possibility of the authoritarian progressives? (What distinction makes this possible?) (73)

44. What would have to happen to get somebody to change from a generally conservative worldview to a generally progressive one? (74)