Sunday, January 22, 2017

George Lakoff — The Women’s Marches and the Politics of Care: The Best Response to Trump’s Inaugural Address

Trump is a textbook example of Strict Father Morality. In a Strict Father family the father is the ultimate authority. Father knows best. He gets his authority from the claim to know right from wrong, and what he says is by definition always right. His word is law and needs to be strictly enforced through strength — swift painful punishment. Even a show is disrespect deserves to be punished.
There is a Strict Father logic: Discipline needs to be imposed. Children need to learn not to do what feels good (like “feel-good liberals”), but to do what they are told. If they do, they will become disciplined and go out into the world and become prosperous. What if they are not prosperous? That just shows that they are not disciplined, which means they cannot be moral, and so deserve their poverty. In short, the poor are poor because they’re lazy and so it’s their own fault. Responsibility is individual responsibility. There is no social responsibility.…
I think George Lakoff pretty well summarizes the opposition to Donald Trump coming from the left.

But I am not getting this from Donald Trump or Steve Bannon. My take is that Bannon has convinced Trump that the liberal Democrats have abandoned their constituency by taking it for granted, while the GOP establishment never aimed at it at all, so they can pick it by showing that they actually care. Bannon has stated that quite clearly as his aim and his task in the Trump administration. 

Is Lakoff being doctrinaire in his application of his theory. and maybe overly simplistic?

George Lakoff
The Women’s Marches and the Politics of Care: The Best Response to Trump’s Inaugural Address
George Lakoff | Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society and retired Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley 


Unknown said...

To a man who has a hammer, everything is a nail.

Random said...

Well apparently reading right-wing news Linda Sonsour, leader of the Women's March against Trump, is a vocal supporter of Sharia Law.

That does not make sense.

Magpie said...

The Donald and Strict Father Morality???


The Pussygrabber in Chief? The Tax Cheat Genius? The guy who is going to give a cushy job to his son in law?

Like, really?!


Recipe for a Shit Smoothy:

Get The Donald and the Clintonette and put them in a blender. Add flies to taste.

If you don't have a Trump and a Clintonette at hand, get any politician.

John said...

I was starting to fall in love with Ashley Judd until she punched the air and screamed "Hillary". That did it for me. Leaving aside Judd's wonderfully splenetic rant, this was just another sad celebrity liberal whose silence is deafening when it comes to "liberal" crimes at home and abroad. As long as abortion and homosexual marriage is legal, nearly all celebrity liberals couldn't care less about working class America and the destruction of whole countries in what are clearly ludicrous pretexts.

Magpie said...

As long as abortion and homosexual marriage is legal, nearly all celebrity liberals couldn't care less about working class America and the destruction of whole countries in what are clearly ludicrous pretexts.


And it's not only celebrities or in the US. The same shit is with intellectuals and pundits.

Let me give you an example from Australia. In parliamentary regimes, members of parliament is usually addressed as "the member for X", where X is an electoral district, often named after someone or another, or someplace.

Our prime minister (Malcolm Turnbull) was jokingly called "the member for Goldman Sachs": the richest politician in the land. He is a liberal, in the sense you Yanks use the word "liberal": gay marriage, he wouldn't miss interfaith stuff from Hanukka to Ramadan, he would go to comedy TV shows and make jokes. All the upper middle class loved him.

The two latest from this creature?

(1) He wants to go TPP without the US.
(2) He concocted a mechanism whereby anyone on social security (age pensions, disability pensions, unemployment) has to prove they don't owe the government money, or they'll either have to pay a random amount (plus interests), or risk going to jail. To make things better: the letter the alleged debtors receive from the government comes from the Australian Federal Police (our FBI). They are guilty until proven innocent.

Magpie said...

I forgot something:
(3) The Commonwealth (federal) employees who leaked documents showing those debts were false, risk going to jail, too.

We were used to our employers scamming us. Now, the Commonwealth has its own racket.

John said...

Magpie, that's the one good thing that's come out of a Trump presidency: identity politics liberals are having strokes. The profits of pharmaceutical firms making high blood pressure medication firms will go through the roof.

Trump can warm to the celebrity liberals by bombing a "homophobic" country into non-existence. The celebrity liberals, no doubt wearing pink clothes and waving rainbow flags, will swoop down on this barbaric and backward country, liberal journalists in tow, to save these deluded primitive people from their backward culture. A little later, teary-eyed liberal celebrities will have plenty of photo opportunities at the bedsides of children whose limbs have been amputated courtesy of a drone attack. Some celebrity liberals may even try to adopt some of these children and marry some in the LGBT community. A country may have been destroyed, millions may be dead and many millions may never recover, but the celebrity liberal will have a t-shirt commemorating their bravery, a dark skinned child without arms or legs or both will join a household of a self-obsessed and stupid celebrity liberal, and possibly even have a new homosexual spouse to show off. Cue Lou Reed singing "Perfect Day"...

Ryan Harris said...

Lakoff's strict father morality model has an element of truth to it, can be made to fit some of the facts afterwards but simplistic explanations like this are a bit like reading tea leaves, they only work when they work and we are trying to see a pattern, the rest of the time not so much.
People are complicated and the world is more complicated. The descriptive value of Lakoff's model is shaded by his disdain and desire to diminish the man's motives. I heard similar models of Obama's behavior described as an ultra-conformist black man and then his responses to events and policies can be made sense of in that light. Element of truth but it seemed to undermine the very real achievements and the social and historic context. For an academic, to fit in your social group, which is 97+% elite democratic party members, you have to come up innovative and novel ways to insult Trump as horribly flawed human being, dangerous and bordering on insanity. De rigueur. I think if you turn the mirror around and see the fears and loathing expressed in the Lakoff's piece it tells us more about how Lakoff and academics more broadly fear and have insecurities about the world, the limits of their knowledge and their failure to see and understand the world when social media has ordinary people more specialized and knowledgeable in many ways than the supposed experts in universities. They've been supplanted in their role in society and they call it, fake, they use these models to claim that the people who do know better than the academics, are just mad... symptomatic of the crumbling hierarchy of the universities dominant role in society.

Whatever internal process we attribute to any person's decision making processes is fraught. The same models of simplistic defective personality traits have been applied to every recent President from Lincoln, JFK and I don't think they tell us much about their performance. Everyone is damaged goods and trying to predict how those patterns will work or not work in Presidential power, good luck with that!

Much progress was made on liberal social issues in the last decade, it's maybe less a priority perhaps than in other elections for voters. The lower taxes, more fiscal spending, less aggressive military and foreign policy, populist industrial policy, and as always the promise of a less intrusive federal government are popular in-spite of a bit of back pedaling on social issues with left-leaners as long as they don't go too far. And for the conservatives, they finally get to roll back some of the social issues that have been tearing apart their worlds and will tolerate the populist demands in exchange. I find explanations like this easier to swallow than father-Trump.

Ignacio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ignacio said...

If you pay attention to the speech, it sounds less like a rant and far more like a serious governing programme. One phrase — “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now”— has struck [some!] people as a reference to slum violence, and indeed that is what it would have meant had a president used it a generation ago.

But its position in the speech makes it likely that Mr Trump is alluding to the wave of overdoses, mostly involving heroin and other opioids, in suburbs and small towns. This is the deadliest US drug crisis ever. It is killing 50,000 Americans a year, more than guns or motor vehicles do. In the 1970s, Curtis Mayfield sang about drugs and crime in the ghetto. In the 1980s, two presidents waged a “war on drugs”.

Today’s overdoses are beneath the notice of either the government or the culture. Mr Trump ran a strong campaign in New Hampshire and West Virginia, the two hardest-hit states.

from Donald Trump meant everything he said

I fucking knew it, Trump tapped on the "Americans killing themselves because the american dream is dead" theme and that helped him getting victory. Meanwhile Democrat suburban elites still arr clueless about what's going on the real world:

Clinton: "I have to confess, I was surprised. I did not expect that I would hear about drug abuse and substance abuse and other such challenges, everywhere I went.”

To this epidemic you have to add increasing LEGAL drug abuse amongst certain cohorts (alcohol for white men; legal anti-depressives and barbiturates amongst women) which is even worse and you see how deep in shit in the american population once you get past the "everything is awesome" depictions of reality.

Wonder why Trump got elected, this ain't rocket science just requires some brains and looking at data to see what reality is (is not enough for the FED to say that an immense majority of households couldn't face any eventuality without recurring to credit due to lack of disposable income and savings): despair. Incompetent people EVERYWHERE and this is allowed because the idea that money (artificial) scarcity is good and "socialism" is bad has been adopted widely and encouraged by the elites.

Matt Franko said...

"the idea that money (artificial) scarcity is good "

That's not what they are thinking... they dont think it is "good" they think we have no authority to issue required amounts... ie we are 'out of money!'...

Its a libertarian-stochastic mindset that is anti authority-deterministic ... its both on the political right and left...

Salsabob said...

Hey commentors, it doesn't take a whole lot of brillance to grasp that the US economy is like a roof with some holes in it (see dying coal and manufacturing automation). But it sure takes a whole lot of silliness to believe the solution is to burn the house down.

After the sugar high of the coming asset inflation from Trump's golden shower (see trickle down income tax cuts to the 1%ers and "infrastructure investment" better known as federal loan guarantees for already-planned pipelines and rent-taking toll roads) watch the bubble pop again from a lack of any real aggregate demand growth as federal funding gets trashed in order to save us from "the deficit monster' created by those giveaways.

And while its great fun to poke at clueless urban Democratic elites and their Hollywood sloganeering, I'd rather own that than being part of the brillant ones that crawled into bed with the alt-Right, neoNazi, KKK, etc. who are apparently so like-minded.

Tom Hickey said...

Regarding Lakoff's binary model, I tend to like simple explanations as gadgets for illustrating fundamental differences and (potential) conflicts in a historical dialectic. A-B testing is useful, for example, although it lacks depth and nuance. I use this gadget of binary thinking frequently, keeping in mind that it excludes the middle and if therefore very limited in capturing the richness of the data.

For example, I frequently use the liberal-illiberal binary to illustrate paradoxes of liberalism, which is the nuance. I generally don't explore the nuance since that is beyond the scope of a blog post or comment. I just suggest that these are things that need to be considered and explored in the debate, which usually are not. That is the liberal positions contain hidden assumptions and unacknowledged presumptions.

I think that the strict father-nurturing mother binary is useful as far as it goes. But simple conceptual narrative models are based on analogy and analogies break down if pushed to far. This is a reason for preferring formal model, but they are much more difficult to construct and interpret, especially when quality is involved or data unavailable or difficult or costly to obtain.

Furthermore, Lakoff is probably correct to suggest that President Trump is an apt caricature of the strict father. In fact, it fits the Donald's family history.

But I think Lakoff is probably trying to squeeze more mileage out of the narrative model than it will bear. To me it sounds like he is turning it into justification for his own political views rather than sticking to it as an explanatory device.

For example, the extreme of the strict father morality is fascism and the extreme of the nurturing mother morality is totalitarian collectivism.

This don'ts imply that either morality necessarily leads there. I seems to me to be overreach to project Hitler or Mussolini onto Trump because he is the caricature of the strict father.

Bob said...

Where does the strict-father-who-finds-his-daughter-sexy fall on the nuance spectrum?

Ryan Harris said...

Trump certainly hit a nerve with Women, and the strict father - daughter relationship is powerful symbolically.

He should take ownership of it.

He united women because all women know how to peacefully rebel and resist against the strict father. Perfected through practice.

Bob said...

Hey Salsa, you're supposed to get on the "wait and see" bandwagon. It's been a long ride, but it's nearing its destination.

Tom Hickey said...

Where does the strict-father-who-finds-his-daughter-sexy fall on the nuance spectrum?

This is actually a persistent issue in strict father morality historically.

Magpie said...

Bob said,

Where does the strict-father-who-finds-his-daughter-sexy fall on the nuance spectrum?

Best question ever! The guy's a creep, a grotesque abortion.

John said,

Magpie, that's the one good thing that's come out of a Trump presidency: identity politics liberals are having strokes.

You are right on that, John, but I think there's more.

Doug Henwood and Glenn Greenwald were right when they said that the cases of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn revealed the class contradictions kept hidden within the liberal/leftish parties.

They failed to see that Brexit and Trump would show the same thing for the conservative, right-of-centre parties.

What this means in practice is that now we have two lefts and two rights: a populist and an elitist wing within left and within right (incidentally, you may have noticed how the word "populism" has been given a pejorative connotation).

The elitist left kept the liberal element. They (politicians, pundits, celebrities) issue marching orders and we follow and they aren't really keen on changing anything substantial.

The Australian example is that we have here a Republican movement with elitist members of both leftish and conservative parties, including Turnbull. And they are opposed by the Monarchists.

The Republican thing is because up to now, the Queen/King of England has been the head of state in Australia (as opposed to the Prime Minister, who is the head of government); and they want to replace Queen/King for a Germany-style President.

Who gives a fuck whether we have a symbolic monarch or an equally symbolic president? What difference would that make? And yet, people waste time and energy discussing that load of bullshit.

People need to be kept busy, discussing trivial things. Do whatever you want to do. Don't dare do things that matter. Capitalism? Nope. That's not "doable". Inequality? That's moralising. Climate change? No, that's a Chinese invention. Loss of biodiversity? Boo-hoo-hoo.

John said...

Magpie: "What this means in practice is that now we have two lefts and two rights: a populist and an elitist wing within left and within right..."

The elitist wings of both parties will no doubt come together in some way. The populist far right are in a better position to take advantage of any discontent because the populist left are useless or believe that they can do a deal with the elite liberal left. You see this latter dynamic being played out by Corbyn and his supporters. Corbyn has been anti-EU his whole life, but now he's been given a once in a lifetime opportunity to capitalise on it he joins forces with his enemies and is doing all he can to keep the UK in the EU. It's political suicide and it may lead to the end of the populist left for a generation. The populist left is so bloody useless! For the first time in generations the public has done the impossible: it is to the left of the populist left, who are willing to fight to the death defending elite capitalist opinion.

Tom Hickey said...

BTW, it's arguably what happened to Dilma in Brazil.