Lakoff v Albert: morality trumps pragmatism.

News Frames discusses the issue of framing the Occupy movement, with Michael Albert (the parecon founder) taking a pragmatic policy-based position and George Lakoff (the cognitive scientist who co-founded the study of metaphorical thought) taking a moral position. News Frames says, and I agree, that Lakoff’s approach is far superior.

I shudder in horror whenever I hear the term “full employment”. The well-intentioned folk who propose it aren’t (I hope) thinking of forced labour, but it’s difficult to see how the latter doesn’t follow directly from the former. The ironies here… that a movement such as Occupy would propose an idea that seems deeply conservative* at best, and which has brutally authoritarian implications, at worst. Albert’s claim that “Full employment strengthens all workers, and it weakens all owners” seems, to me, an inversion of evidential reality in important respects – and it appears to confuse “employment” with livable income.

There’s enough material on the fascistic-seeming “full employment” framing for several articles, so I’ll leave further comment for future pieces. For now, consider the ways in which Michael Albert’s suggestions might conceptually “reinforce” the rightwing Economic Liberty Myth (a term coined by Lakoff). For example, Albert says Occupy should demand that people who have been fired are “rehired”. Central to the Economic Liberty Myth is the notion that employers “give jobs” to employees. This is what makes employers the heroes in the narrative – employers as the source not just of income, but of “meaningful activity” (“work”) and social relationships. The only other alternative (according to the myth) is: people sitting at home doing nothing, wasting their lives, isolated, socially useless parasites. In this quaint fairy tale, the employers – the bosses, the owners – save us all from that horrible fate. We demand it.

One thought on “Lakoff v Albert: morality trumps pragmatism.

  1. Miep December 17, 2014 at 21:51 Reply

    Yes, it equates unemployment with helplessness and uselessness and employment is framed as the only possible form of empowerment. If much of what passes for employment is not really necessary or meaningful, framing full employment as an absolute goal generates more wasteful production. It also would mean much childcare could not be performed by parents, but only by a paid employee, or retired people, a questionable goal.

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