I read recently Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate by George Lakoff.
The book was published in 2004 and is a collection of articles and talks. I found the analysis of political ‘right’ and ‘left’ valuable, though he is focused on US politics. He thinks it stems from models of the family. There are two extremes. One is the family where the father is the head and others are subservient to him, in which he uses punishment to make good people out of bad people – this is the right. The other is the nurturing family where both parents are of equal status and nurture their children to become nurturing parents themselves – the left. He accepts these are two extremes and that there is a continuum and all of us will use both models at some time. He says that people vote on values even when that is against self interest. The right have been honing a story based on their model for decades. He wants the left to develop a story based on their model to provide an alternative, which is what he calls reframing. I have felt this myself for a long time – we need a new story on which to build a vision of our common future.
I then read this article where I found Lakoff misunderstood. My comment to the article is below.
Royal Mail: the rhetoric of privatisation. How to reframe the political language of austerityand sell-offs
This article misunderstands the point Lakoff makes. Lakoff would say that using a phrase ‘casino economy’ is a mistake because it keeps the argument in the casino/austerity ball game. Reframing means changing the basis on which judgements are made. Change the debate to one about fairness, such as that those building houses (the workers) or those growing food (the farm workers) cannot afford to buy a place to live or good food to eat. Public property is being sold so that we have to rent it back forever; it’s like indentured labour.
Then I looked at the source of the above article and had the same response.
Framing the economy: the austerity story
George Lakoff says that once you have a frame facts that don’t fit are ignored. The current story of the economy is the stern father model who applies austerity medicine. If you try to present an alternative view of the economy that view will fail. We have to create a new valid story on a different frame, and I think fairness is a good frame for the nurturing parents model.