Mixing Memory

Lakoff Interviewed at Emboldened

Those of you interested in this whole frame analysis thing, or in George Lakoff’s new cult of personality, might find his blog interview at Emboldened. I’m planning on writing a post about Lakoff when my computer access is more consistent, because I’ve been thinking about his (and Mark Johnson’s) theory of concepts, and by extension, his version of frame analysis, from a different perspective lately. I’ll give you a taste of that perspective with a quote from Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man (p. 103 in the Second Edition; all emphasis mine):

The ritual-authoritarian language spreads over the contemporary world, through democratic and non-democratic, capitalist and non-capitalist countries. According to Roland Barthes, it is the language “propre á tous les régimes d’autorité,” and is there today, in the orbit of advanced industrial civilization, a society which is not under an authoritarian regime? As the substance of the various regimes no longer appears in alternative modes of life, it comes to rest in alternative techniques of manipulation and control. Language not only reflects these controls but becomes itself an instrument of control even where it does not transmit orders but information; where it demands, not obedience but choice, not submission but freedom.

This language controls by reducing the linguistic forms and symbols of reflection, abstraction, development, contradiction; by substituting images for concepts. It denies or absorbds the transcendent vocabulary; it does not search for but establishes and imposes truth and falsehood. But this kind of discourse is not terroristic. It seems unwarranted to assume that the recipients believe, or are made to believe, what they are being told. The new touch of the magic-ritual language is that people don’t believe it, or don’t care, and yet act accordingly. One does not “believe” the statement of an operational concept but it justifies itself in action–in getting the job done, in selling and buying, in refusing to listen to others, etc.



  1. #1 Patricia Mathews
    July 21, 2006

    Didn’t that used to be called “Newspeak”?

  2. #2 Austin
    July 22, 2006

    Let me know when you write that follow up post. Since I did the interview I’ve been receiving both positive and negative responses (not about me but Lakoff) and so I’d be very interested to hear more about the science behind his positions. I come down somewhere in the middle on Lakoff: I love his descriptions but don’t love his political remedies.

    Can’t wait to see what your thoughts are.

  3. #3 Chris
    July 22, 2006

    Hey Austin, thanks for commenting. I enjoyed your interview, even if I am about as anti-Lakoff as they come. While I’ve been anti-Lakoff since before his political days, for reasons that are generally scientific (conceptual metaphor theory = bullshit, basically), and I’ve written (too) many posts on the science, the one I want to write when I get the chance will be more philosophical/political.

  4. #4 shreeharsh
    September 25, 2006

    conceptual metaphor theory = bullshit, basically

    Why? Just curious.

    And yes, Lakoff’s recent political avatar is pretty annoying…

  5. #5 Chris
    September 25, 2006

    Shreeharsh, I say that because there have been solid theoretical and empirical cases against conceptual metaphor theory, and there are much better theories of ocncepts out there that handle more of the data and make more specific predictions, yet conceptual metaphor theory is still championed by cognitive linguistis as though it were the most well-supported theory in the discipline.

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