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The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain

Lakoff, George

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In What's the Matter with Kansas? Thomas Frank pointed out that a great number of Americans actually vote against their own interests. In The Political Mind, George Lakoff explains why.

As it turns out, human beings are not the rational creatures we've so long imagined ourselves to be. Ideas, morals, and values do not exist somewhere outside the body, ready to be examined and put to use. Instead, they exist quite literally inside the brain—and they take physical shape there. For example, we form particular kinds of narratives in our minds just like we form specific muscle memories such as typing or dancing, and then we fit new information into those narratives. Getting that information out of one narrative type and into another—or building a whole new narrative altogether—can be as hard as learning to play the banjo. Changing your mind isn't like changing your body—it's the same thing.

But as long as progressive politicians and activists persist in believing that people use an objective system of reasoning to decide on their politics, the Democrats will continue to lose elections. They must wrest control of the terms of the debate from their opponents rather than accepting their frame and trying to argue within it.

This passionate, erudite, and groundbreaking book will appeal to readers of Steven Pinker and Thomas Frank. It is a fascinating read for anyone interested in how the mind works, how society works, and how they work together.

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About the Author:

George Lakoff is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Don't Think of an Elephant!

Kent Cassella is an actor who divides his time between Vermont and New York. Television and film credits include all of the Law and Order franchise shows, FX's Rescue Me, Showtime's Brotherhood, and the Ben Affleck film The Town.

From AudioFile:

To understand why conservative Republicans are so effective at shifting public opinion, you have to understand how their message resonates with our minds physiologically. It is not a matter of logic or argument, says the author. It's how the message integrates with the "framing stories" of our mind and culture. Lakoff explores these points at great length. As a result, this book is best listened to in pieces, rather than at length. Treat it more like a series of college lectures than an audiobook. Some points are so complex that listeners are urged to print out pages from the publisher's Website to follow along. Kent Cassella is an able narrator, rendering the complicated material as accessible as possible. R.C.G. © AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine

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