Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Strict Father Model

Liberal Berkeley professor George Lakoff wants to educate his fellow liberals on Why Conservatives Have Left Liberals In the Dust. He tries to explain conservatives in this 1995 essay as if they were a tribe in Borneo with completely alien practices and values. In particular, he argues that their unreasonable political views stem from their unusual family life, which he describes:
The Strict Father Model. A traditional nuclear family with the father having primary responsibility for the well-being of the household. The mother has day-to-day responsibility for the care of the house and details of raising the children. But the father has primary responsibility for setting overall family policy, and the mother's job is to be supportive of the father and to help carry out the father's views on what should be done. Ideally, she respects his views and supports them.

Life is seen as fundamentally difficult and the world as fundamentally dangerous. Evil is conceptualized as a force in the world, and it is the father's job to support his family and protect it from evils -- both external and internal. External evils incLude enemies, hardships, and temptations. Internal evils come in the form of uncontrolled desires and are as threatening as external ones. The father embodies the values needed to make one's way in the world and to support a family: he is morally strong, self-disciplined, frugal, temperate, and restrained. He sets an example by holding himself to high standards. He insists on his moral authority, commands obedience, and when he doesn't get it, metes out retribution as fairly and justly as he knows how. It is his job to protect and support his family, and he believes that safety comes out of strength.

In addition to support and protection, the father's primary duty is tell his children what is right and wrong, punish them when they do wrong, and to bring them up to be self-disciplined and self-reliant. Through self-denial, the children can build strength against internal evils. In this way, he teaches his children to be self-disciplined, industrious, polite, trustworthy, and respectful of authority.

The strict father provides nurturance and expresses his devotion to his family by supporting and protecting them, but just as importantly by setting and enforcing strict moral bounds and by inculcating self-discipline and self-reliance through hard work and self-denial. This builds character. For the strict father, strictness is a form of nurturance and love -- tough love.

The strict father is restrained in showing affection and emotion overtly, and prefers the appearance of strength and calm. He gives to charity as an expression of compassion for those less fortunate than he and as an expression of gratitude for his own good fortune.

Once his children are grown -- once they have become self-disciplined and self-reliant -- they are on their own and must succeed or fail by themselves; he does not meddle in their lives, just as he doesn't want any external authority meddling in his life.
A reader suggests that maybe liberal shrinks and social workers have pegged me as being from a conservative family, and therefore I have an incorrigibly retro view of family life.

Here is an article following Lakoff's ideas:
In my article on November 12, 2008, I discussed the need to build a progressive empathetic foundation to at least match if not surpass the well developed and obesely funded conservative single-party foundation that brought us torture, preemptive war and now an economic disaster to compare with no less than The Great Depression. In my article on November 25, 2008, I discussed replacing the “you’re on your own,” “empathy deficit,” conservative cognitive policy with an empathic progressive cognitive policy. In this posting, I will try to describe the two individual worldviews behind these policies.

We are a country with basically a two party system. These two parties have come to represent two worldviews: conservative and progressive. We are also a country where our brains have two modes of thought which coincide with these two worldviews. These worldview are impacted by our capacity, or lack there of, for empathy, which can easily be killed by fear. ...

In The Conservative Worldview section of The Nation as a Family, the strong Strict Father model results in the conservative worldview:
“The world is, and always will be, a dangerous and difficult place.”
“It is a competitive world and there will always be winners and losers.”
“Children are naturally bad since they want to do what feels good, not what is moral, so they have to be made good by being taught discipline.”
“There is tangible evil in the world and to stand up to evil, one must be morally strong, or ‘disciplined.’”
In The Progressive Worldview section of The Nation as a Family, the strong Nurturant Parent model results in the progressive worldview:
“It is assumed that the world is basically good.”
“… however dangerous and difficult the world may be at present, it can be made better, and it is your responsibility to help make it better.”
“… children are born good, and parents can make them better, and it is their responsibility to do so.”
“Both parents (if there are two) are responsible for running the household and raising the children, although they may divide their activities. “
“The parents’ job is to be responsive to their children, nurture them, and raise their children to nurture others.”
“Nurturance requires empathy and responsibility.”
I think that Lakoff is a nut living in a liberal academic bubble. But Santa Cruz is also a liberal bubble. I don't know what to make of this strict father model. Do the textbooks really teach it as some sort of anachronism that ought to be eliminated? Is there a left-wing anti-paternalism conspiracy to attack conservative family values and promote more spending on social programs? Is empathy a political codeword? This will take some further research.


Anonymous said...

IMHO I think we can throw out the old monikers of "liberal" vs. "conservative" because both of those have been hijacked from their original meanings. What we're really seeing is "statism" or "authoritarianism" vs the individual.

Within the statists you have authoritarianism by those supporting the plutocrats and create laws and institutions based more on punishment along w/blatant surveillance in the name of "liberty" and preservation of freedom from whomever is deemed the outside enemy du jour. You could call these the conservatives but like I said, I don't think they really are.

On the other side of the statists you have authoritarianism run by those who support so-called "experts", or I suppose technocrats who "know best". And will regulate and micromanage your life to the n'th degree. These experts include lawyers, shrinks, judges, academicians, teachers, etc. Yes, you will have surveillance as well by them. It's all about control and maintaining it.

Historically every single government has turned statist and become authoritarian and taken control over the individual. How you want to do that is based on the culture of that particular country. So what we have now in this country is the Statists vs the rest of us. Like any political system there is struggle for the upper hand between the two factions, but the main goal is for them to run the show over the majority of the people, the individual. In other words: we the people. This is what the founding fathers were worried about, and guess what, it's happening.

What that Berserkely professor is espousing as "conservative" is really just a traditional family model. The so-called "liberal" version is just wishful thinking and psycho babble, albeit from a feminist viewpoint of women uber alles. So to my way of thinking the axes of the "struggle" if I may use Marxist terms here are statism vs the individual and male vs female. And within the statists the axis is between the plutocrats vs technocrats.

Just my 0.02, I'm not a sociologist, political analyst, lawyer, shrink, etc. YMMV, IMHO, etc.

Anonymous said...

further to your questions in the your last paragraph I think there's something to all that. Checking out the course agenda sheets ("green sheet") for some of the classes in these fields of study would be a good start. Usually they're on the school/dept website, though not always. Getting a hold of some of the textbooks would be useful as well.

Remember: control of the language is the high ground in the battle of ideology. And lawyers, judges, shrinks, and social workers dwell in language, it's their coin of the realm.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I don't understand, why is a conservative, not a liberal ? If a person is a liberal, then they believe in preserving one's liberty from government interference, etc.
If one is a conservative, then they believe in maintaining or conserving these liberties, too.

Me, I consider myself a liberal and a conservative. How can a person be one without being the other ?

Maybe I don't understand something.

Great insights and comments above.

TheSouthCountyKid said...

RE 11:31, your questions are excellent because the concepts of conservative and liberal have been hijacked and twisted from their original meanings. To me, liberal is more along the lines of Jefferson whereas conservative is along the lines of Adams. I like those kinds of liberals and conservatives, at least by those definitions, because the ideals of those two camps work beautifully together and complement each other. Neither camp has all the answers all the time, it's impossible. There are inevitably clashes and such but at least from where those guys were coming from they weren't statists. Remember, these guys were in the Age Of Enlightenment, they used the soundest reasoning and principles at hand and did the best they could. And not a bad job, either ;-)

I agree in principle with the concept of progressiveness because our society and culture has different elements that didn't exist 2-300 years ago so we have to make certain adjustments from time to time. The problem I see w/a lot of so-called progressives is that they tend to throw out the baby with the bath water. Is the traditional family model obsolete? I'd say not by a long shot. Does it fit every single situation? Not in this day and age. So why then force "one size fits all" on everyone when clearly that's not reasonable? That's where the statism comes in. The arrogance, the need for control.

In the long run, like the founding fathers, I'd rather put my trust in the judgement of the people than some small cadre of ivory towered control freaks who don't live in the real world having to slog through the day to day of interacting w/everyman (and woman) and get along and work together. I live in Northern California, I can't tell someone living in Indiana how to do things and what their values should be. What works here doesn't necessarily map to the realities of there. And vice versa. Though we do share a number of commonalities living in the same country w/the same overall history. And at the end of the day, I have no issues anyway w/how culture and people are there so why should I stick my nose in where it truly doesn't belong? I have enough of my own stuff to address ("....remove the log from your eye before removing the speck from your brother's....").

Sorry for the soapbox, I'll get step down now ;-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for what was not a soapbox speech, but an informatvice explanation, which I appreciate.

You're the first I've run into to understand the diff between conservatism and liberialism, and how they can, or do, or should coexist.

The quesion I think at stake is the need or push for progressivism, as our country, and it's people and times have changed, and modernized.

The goal, it would seem would be to integrate progressivism to keep up with the times, but only in ways that can preserve our liberties, simulataneously, vs. eliminating them, or suppressing them.

The u.s. was set up based on liberty more than all else. How can anyone argue to be anything but a libertarian, and not want our country to function in anyway that doesn't have an end goal of maintaning or achieving greater individual liberty should any changes be made ?

What is preventing people from all political sides from seeing this ?

Anonymous said...

"The u.s. was set up based on liberty more than all else. How can anyone argue to be anything but a libertarian, and not want our country to function in anyway that doesn't have an end goal of maintaning or achieving greater individual liberty should any changes be made ?

What is preventing people from all political sides from seeing this ?"

very simple: the very human compulsion (for some, anyway) for control. It's really built in strongly for some. The FFs built as many checks and balances as they could, but as you know, given time, someone(s) will find ways to circumvent them.

Jefferson (can you tell I'm a Jefferson fan?) said "the tree of liberty needs to be nourished w/blood from time to time". While I don't believe outright violence is necessary nor am I advocating it here in this conversation, I do think it takes constant vigilance to make sure our liberties are not encroached. We the people unfortunately have been rather asleep at the wheel for some time. And not just in terms of family law.

George said...

Good comments. This will take some further research. I think that there is a political angle here.

Anonymous said...

that's a safe bet. Politics is about control. Ostensibly for organizing groups of people, but human nature being what it is, it generally degenerates into control based on some sort of wild-eyed ideology that abandons reason and compassion.

Will be very curious to read what you post.

BTW, my ex vacated her pursuit of re-establishing a restraining order. Still moving forward w/a motion to regain visitation and custody.

Found some outrageous stuff in my case file regarding the first DVRO. Turns out after the hearing 3 years ago the ex and the judge refiled it to a non-CLETS order. It was never brought up during the hearing and no post-hearing orders were ever issued. So for 3 years there was never a DVRO to begin with.

A non-CLETS order isn't worth the paper it's printed on, completely unenforceable. Provided there's even an order to begin with and there certainly isn't one in my case file. I did, however, see some butt-covering paperwork on the ex's part a few months after that hearing. This was under JJJ's reign.

I'm not sure what one can do under these circumstances. Send a complaint to the state bar? That's a laugh, as if they'll dis-bar him, honor among thieves, after all. But what went down has to have been completely out of order, even by Santa Cruz County standards. My ex? Well, what can you do with a sociopath? There is no cure from everything I've ever read on the subject.