Since September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has relentlessly invoked the word "freedom." The United States can strike preemptively because "freedom is on the march." Social security should be privatized and taxes for the wealthy cut in order to enhance individual freedoms. Intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in the name of freedom of speech. The 2005 presidential inaugural speech was a kind of crescendo: the words "freedom," "free," and "liberty" were used forty-nine times in President Bush's twenty-minute speech.
"Freedom" is one of the most contested words in American political discourse. For many Democrats, it seems that President Bush's use of the word is meaningless and contradictory—deployed opportunistically to justify American military action abroad and the curtailing of civil liberties at home. But in Whose Freedom?, George Lakoff, a linguist and cognitive scientist, reveals that in fact the right has effected a devastatingly coherent and ideological redefinition of freedom. Disregarding the progressive ideal of freedom taken for granted throughout our history, the conservative revolution has made "freedom" its central weapon on the front lines of everything from the war on terror to the battles over religion in the classroom and abortion.
In his analysis, Lakoff describes how the country is divided by two dramatically different worldviews, cognitive frames that determine how we think about economic policy, religion, science, foreign affairs—and freedom. He reveals the mechanisms behind the right-wing hijacking of our most cherished political idea. And he shows how progressives not only have failed at every turn to counter this attack, but also have failed to recognize its nature and, even worse, have failed to articulate their own intuitive understanding of freedom. Whose Freedom? argues what progressives must do to take back ground in this high-stakes war over the most central idea in American life.