Publication details [#7076]

Lakoff, George. 2006. Whose Freedom? The Battle Over America's Most Important Idea. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 288 pp. URL
Publication type
Book – monograph
Publication language


This is the most extensive study yet on a single contested concept using cognitive semantics. It looks at the concept of Freedom and what is meant by it by progressives and conservatives. (George Lakoff) Lakoff revisits the theme of his 2004 bestseller (Don't Think of an Elephant!), exploring the role of rhetorical metaphors in shaping political discourse. Specifically, he explores how the conservative and progressive definitions of "freedom" differ from one another, in order to demonstrate how liberals uphold a dominant American political tradition while "radical conservatives" seek to overturn that legacy for their own selfish ends. The historical evidence for this claim is never detailed to a persuasive degree, however, leaving a simplistic psychological model in which conservatives adhere to "strict father" thinking while progressives embrace a "nurturant parent" model. Though Lakoff's proposed solution calls upon progressives to reject the conservative framework with new language, it's highly questionable whether talking about "freedom judges" instead of "judicial activists" could really catch on. The author undermines his own warnings that the conservative movement is a threat to free will by suggesting that conservatives are trying to brainwash Americans to render them less capable of adopting progressive attitudes. Lakoff has been heralded for offering Democrats a new strategic vision, but the plan he articulates entails creating a populist movement that demonizes the right wing as a "dangerous elite"—hardly a new frame for political discourse. (Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.)