a book by George Lakoff
(our site's book review)
Lakoff has shown uncommon insight about the Culture War and about the necessary type of parenting to end that war and give kids a real chance. The book also contains deadly accurate insights about the values of conservatives and liberals and why neither side listens to the other. Although he makes an airtight case against the negative side of conservative values and for the positive side of liberal ones, he fails to see clearly the negative side of liberal values and the positive side of conservative values. This leads him to a startling and illogical, black-or-white conclusion where he supports only liberal politics and shuns conservative ones. He needed a more synthesizing, integrated, systems approach during the conclusion phase of his otherwise insightful book, rather than the reductionistic and naïve one he conjured up. But let’s look at some of his well-handled issues:
Neither side listens to the other—they just talk AT each other using verbal punches
Conservatives have a problem. As we enter the Third Wave with knowledge as the dominant and most important power source, they find themselves torn. On the one hand are the authoritarian family values which they’ve managed to drag from our nation’s past and which they have attempted to apply to our nation’s present. But neither science in particular nor knowledge in general supports their parenting style. They strongly believe in science as the basis of our country’s technological progress and resultant business /economic success, but in all areas where it clashes with their beliefs, they put their heads in the sand. (It’s almost as though they’ve had half an Enlightenment.) Obviously if science supported their beliefs in this area, they’d say they believe in science in this area, but since it doesn’t they simply refer to the only documents that do support their beliefs: religious documents. This opens the door for the excessive power that fundamentalists enjoy in politics, public opinion, school policies, and women’s rights issues. But now, the problem:
Conservatives have their heads in the sand
As the world gains more knowledge about win-win relationships, conflict resolution, women’s issues, parenting, childcare, nurturing, and the Third Wave, it will slowly abandon errant ideas and practices in these areas in favor of effective, nurturing ones. And as the world shifts paradigms from the old, win-lose, domination-obsessed, mechanistic-reductionistic worldview to the new, win-win, cooperation-based, ecological-holistic worldview, conservatives will have to either revamp beliefs and practices or get left behind in a fog of whimpering nostalgia.
Lakoff strongly advocates the new, ecological-holistic paradigm replacing the old, reductionistic-mechanistic paradigm
Conservatives will have to either revamp beliefs and practices or get left behind in a fog of whimpering nostalgia, doubting inconvenient science
They will have a tendency to hold back the world as well, but ultimately they’ll have to either get with the program or get out of the way. It will be up to both enlightened new-paradigm conservatives and nonconservatives to help them understand that their value system had and still has great worth, and that authoritarianism in general and authoritarian parenting in particular were valuable in earlier times when dominant fathers helped families to survive, but that these ideas and practices have become anachronisms and no longer serve anyone (in this nation). From this respectful context, nonauthoritarians will be able to slowly pull unenlightened conservatives—hopefully not kicking and screaming—into the twenty-first century.
Nonauthoritarians will need to pull unenlightened conservatives—hopefully not kicking and screaming—into the twenty-first century
Lakoff insightfully analyzes today’s morals and politics in terms of two models: Nurturant Parent and Strict Father. The first is liberal and the second is conservative. He looks at the fundamentalist-extremist-conservative connection, but also why the two sides never hear each other and never will unless they grasp the models/contexts they are coming from in their conflicts and discussions. But more importantly, he looks at the science and research in the area of parenting and shows that, without any doubt, the authoritarian method flies in the face of all knowledge and science, as does the permissive method, and the only methods that are validated by science are the Authoritative method and the Harmonious method. There wasn’t much difference in these two methods except that the Harmonious method (e.g., P.E.T.) doesn’t use logical consequences discipline strategies but the Authoritative method does. Both rely heavily on active listening, win-win conflict resolution, democratic parenting, and letting natural consequences teach kids whenever possible.
But then Lakoff goes astray, pushing the idea that authoritative parenting is part of the liberal trend in our country. And he also believes that this is a good reason to be a liberal, politically, including its beliefs about government programs being the answer to many of our problems. He’s incredibly right that his discovery of the errant ways of authoritarianism should make him oppose it and avoid it. But his retrogressive, reductionistic conclusions based on black-and-white logic—which lead him straight into the arms of liberal politics—are beneath the man—he should have waited a few years to write his book once he had completed his quest to grasp what was behind all the moral politics and what it all meant. Liberal politics are part of the problem, not part of the solution—especially big government programs and social engineering.
Liberal politics are part of the problem, not part of the solution—especially big government programs and social engineering; we don't need social engineering superheroes
Authoritative parenting is part of a Third Wave-manifesting, new paradigm-based, good science-founded movement that transcends the liberal-conservative continuum. It hardly defines one end of this continuum!
Look out—here comes another tax-and-spend liberal